Civil War blog acts as educational resource
October 11, 2012
The University Archives and Area Research Center has received a Reader Appreciation Award for their Civil War blog, which focuses on local soldiers who went to war.
Kathie Otto, head of University Archives and Area Research Center, who had the idea of starting this blog, has correlated it with the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War.
“I had read, a number of years ago, about someone who started a blog about the World War I diary of a soldier and thought it was a good idea,” said Otto.
Hand written letters from soldiers from River Falls and surrounding areas, such as Prescott, Wis., are typed up by students and staff in the Archives and Area Research Center and put in a blog entry on WordPress.com exactly 150 years after they were written. Newspapers from that time period are also typed up and published in an entry 150 years to the week of when it was originally published.
“It’s a very personal look at the Civil War through these letters,” said Otto.
The blog currently has 18 readers who are signed up to get email notices when a new blog entry is posted and 28 followers on Twitter. The UW-River Falls Archives and Area Research Center Facebook page also has 75 “likes” and frequent posts about the blog as well.
Due to the dedicated readers of the blog, the Reader Appreciation Award could be awarded.
“I got an email from a reader saying that we were nominated for the Reader Appreciation Award,” said Otto.
The woman who nominated the blog also has a blog on WordPress.com and nominated seven different types of blogs that she thought were deserving of recognition. From there, Otto said that she was able to post an icon on the Civil War blog page acknowledging that they had received this nomination by a reader.
“It’s good that people can read this blog and it makes me see that what I’m putting into the blog means something,” said broad-field social studies major and Archives student employee, Joe Harris.
There are a total of seven people working on the blog, including five student employees, Otto and one student volunteer. The students primarily type up the letters and newspapers and, although the newspapers are often easier to copy, the letters can be quite difficult.
“The handwriting is sloppy at times and the language they use can be tricky to figure out,” said history major and Archives student employee, Michael Peterson.
The soldiers tend to write in cursive and some of the letters such as an “S” can often look like an “F” or a lowercase “p” looked like an “n” occasionally. Some of the lingo they used in that time period is not commonly used today, which brings a struggle as well. However, with the amount of students working on this blog and with the help of Otto, each entry is successfully typed up without errors.
Otto hopes that this blog will continue to grow in popularity and could potentially be used for history teachers both in secondary education and as well as college education.
“We want to get in touch with UWRF students so they can use it for research with history papers or projects they may have,” said Otto. “High school students could use this for History Day projects and research, too.”
For Harris, not only is this a great educational experience now, but he also plans to refer to the blog when he becomes a teacher.
“I plan on being a high school American history teacher,” Harris said. “Through the soldiers’ stories and letters you get to learn about what they went through personally and not just what a textbook tells you.”
Through the soldier’s letters, readers get to learn what they went through on a day-to-day basis while in the war.
“They’ll talk about the local people when they are in the boarder states such as Tennessee and Kentucky,” said Otto.
For some of the soldiers, it was the first time they had met slaves and they talked about not only fighting soldiers, but also dealing with local people who fought as well.
“Usually with history textbooks it’s kind of broad but with the letters you see what soldiers were thinking,” said Peterson.
Not only is the University Archives and Research Center continuing to acknowledge the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War, they are also celebrating an anniversary of their own.
“This year is the 50th anniversary of the Archives and Area Research Center,” said Otto.
From 3-5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, there will be a reception in the Archives Center located in the basement of the Davee Library.
The link to the blog is: http://thecivilwarandnorthwestwisconsin.wordpress.com/
There is also a link to the blog on the Archives website.