Doing Local History: a teaching and research initiative by the History Department, Eastern Illinois University
The following teaching projects/initiatives are guided by two main assumptions: (a) we seek to provide the students with 21st-century tools so that they can combine liberal arts critical thinking and writing skills with basic information technology abilities in order for ready employment in education, government, and beyond; (b) we seek to provide materials that encourage students to ask their own questions (research hypotheses) and construct cogent arguments about the past. For example, the Coles County Legal History Project (CCLHP) is an SQL (standard query language) database, that does not simply present material (although it does that) but also allows students and researchers to develop their own research hypotheses about the material and the database constructs answers (to the degree the data is in there) in response to their directions.
- Students in the Masters in History, Historical Administration program have helped develop site content for:
- History of Eastern Illinois University's Old Main exhibit and webpages (through the Exhibits class)
- Researching Coles County History as well as Illinois History pages (through the Local History course; also Masters in History program students)
- Undergraduate history majors and M.A. in History have worked as student researchers (work-study), funded by the Illinois Consolidated Telephone Company (Lumpkin Foundation) technology in history grant, to transcribe, scan, and extract information to put in a database through the Coles County Legal History Project, which is the gateway to the database itself. (Over time, this database will be incorporated into courses on Illinois History and Research and Writing Legal History.)
- Technology in History Graduate Assistantship, funded by the Illinois Consolidated Telephone Company (Lumpkin Foundation), of which we have just completed the first of four years, has funded a M.A. in History or Historical Administration to both create, update, and fine-tune our websites, as well as promote the use of the websites by academics, secondary education classes, students, and genealogists/local historians.
- Undergraduates, M.A. in History and Historical Administration graduates have taken the new course, His 4900, Historical Publishing, to create the award-winning student journal, Historia, and the department newsletter, both in hard copy and online.
1. We have published Localités/Localities (May 2000, a special issue of Eastern Illinois University's Research and Review Series (also published online at http://www.eiu.edu/~localite), with the following articles:
- "Introduction: Localités and Nationalism as the Vestigial and the Incipient?"by Newton E. Key; "Of Wholes and Parts: Local History and the American Experience" by Terry A. Barnhart; "National History in the Local Landscape: Industrial Revolution in Sutton, Massachusetts" by Nora Pat Small; "Locations of Black Identity: Community Canning Centers in Texas, 1915-1935" by Debra Ann Reid; "Small Groups and the Chimera of Consensus: Local Politics and National Politics in Modern Germany" by Daniel A. McMillan; "A Country Unlike Any Other: The History of Yucatán and Regional History in Mexico" by Ben Fallaw; "Localités and Early Modern Britain" by Newton E. Key; "Crime and Punishment in the Neighborhood" by Christopher Waldrep; and a section on Coles County for the Classroom, with "A Chronicle of the Coles County Region" by Mark Voss-Hubbard and Newton E. Key; and "Crisis and Conscience: Illinois Copperheads and the American Civil War" by Terry A. Barnhart.
2. We have put together a large and prestigious conference, "History at the Grassroots: Local History and Its Audiences" to be held in conjunction with the annual "History Teachers Conference--Connecting Communities: Teaching About People and Places in History" at Eastern Illinois University, on 27-28 Oct. 2000.
- program brochure available online at http://www.eiu.edu/~localite/
- History at the Grassroots is a unique opportunity for teachers, public historians, academics, and those interested in local history to begin a dialog about weaving the history of towns, communities, and regions into the grand narrative. Panels will explore both the nuts and bolts of doing local history and the ways in which that history reflects and contributes to national and global understanding. James Loewen, author of Lies Across America: What Our Historical Sites Get Wrong (1999), will present an evening talk based on this book to our conference. And the luncheon features at talk by Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History at the University of Florida, which links the personal and the historical, the regional and the national, the written and the taught, in ways which should provide a fitting opening to our two days of exploring local history.
3. Localités/Localities is a web-based center for local history:
- The Eastern Illinois University History Department, in partnership with Illinois Consolidated Telephone Company (Lumpkin Foundation) and with the assistance of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) and the Graduate School/Vice President of Academic Affairs' office of Eastern Illinois University, has established Localités/Localities, an ongoing project, which seeks: to establish and expand a web-based center for local history, including interactive storage and retrieval of historical tools and documents; to foster use of the Web as a teaching and research tool for history in academia, regional schools, and the local community; to further local and worldwide discussion of local history. The Localités/Localities Committee is: Terry Barnhart, Newton Key, Debra Reid, Nora Pat Small, Mark Voss-Hubbard of Eastern Illinois; and Chris Waldrep of San Francisco State.