Sunday, December 6, 2009

The 72nd OVI Project - Introduction

The impetus for my creating this blog is a project that is ongoing with my AP US History students at Gilmour Academy: the development of a webpage devoted the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

One of the perennial questions I faced was what to do with the month of school that remained between the APUSH test (typically the first Friday of May) and the end of the school year. Having just completed a whirlwind tour of American history in nine months, I didn't see the sense of doing more of the same. I tried dedicating the time to a research paper, allowing students to dig into any historical research topic that might pique their interest. Unfortunately, with the end of the year looming, most students were too caught up in bringing the rest of their classes to a successful conclusion. As a result, what I had hoped would be a chance for my students to see why I love history turned into an exercise of expediency which satisfied neither students nor teacher.

Last year I started to develop a new project that, I hoped, would accomplish several goals. Firstly, I wanted something that would require my students to "do history" rather than reading the work of historians. Therefore, it should require work with primary resources and make a genuine contribution to the body of historical knowledge. Secondly, the project should provide authentic goals that could be accomplished within that final month of school. Finally, the topic of research should be somewhat significant yet broad enough to allow students to pursue strains of research that held some personal interest for them.

With those goals in mind, I turned to Nan Card, Curator of Manuscripts at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, for advice. Though we have never met personally, we developed a good working relationship as I researched my doctoral dissertation. Nan is a professional historian with a real zeal for her work at the Center. When I explained to her what I want to accomplish, she suggested that we focus on the 72nd OVI. The unit had fought throughout the Civil War, had not received much coverage in print or on the web, and she had many primary sources in her collection that she was willing to share. She immediately sent me a packet of photocopied letters from members of the unit and the project was on.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 4, 2009


I am a recent, and reluctant, arrival to the blogosphere. There was a time when I believed that everyone was entitled to my opinion but over the years I have learned that the less I say, the less that I have to apologize for. I also prided myself on staying somewhat current with technology but since I turned fifty I've lost some urgency in that regard. Though new toys can be fun I've come to appreciate efficiency more than innovation. Now, however, I've found something new that has the potential to draw me out of my technological shell: THATCamp Columbus. When I read about "a user-generated 'unconference' on digital humanities" I saw an opportunity to learn something both fresh and useful. Since I've committed to their blog I thought that I should attempt a blog of my own.

I make no promises about how successful this blog will be. I'll give it a sincere try and if it goes somewhere, great! If not, there is still much to be learned in failure. Thanks for reading me.