By Autumn R. Neal
In my last post, I talked about going through the letters and photos of the Edgar Snow Papers at the State Historical Society. After choosing the items I wanted to use, I had to digitize them and before this assignment I only knew how to use a basic scanner. Even though I had a lot to learn and got confused a few times, the process of digitizing the documents was entertaining, as least for me. I learned about archival standards such as the required scan resolution, file names, and the information that needed to be attached to each file. We also learned how to use Photoshop which, by the way is amazing. I had never used it before and now I have a hard time using other photo editors.
When I was scanning the newspaper articles I had chosen, I decided that the copy of the “Kansas City Boy Stowaway” article that I found wasn’t in very good shape and thought I would have to scrap it. The very helpful women at the Historical Society told me that it was on microfilm and I could request it to get a better copy. They ordered it for me from who knows where, emailed when it arrived, and helped me get the viewer set up. I looked through a month’s worth of newspapers from the 20s. In another class of mine, I am writing about advertisements from the 1970s and having that experience helps with the way I’m looking at my other paper. Even if you’re not doing research, looking at old microfilm would be a good way to entertain yourself while learning something at the same time.
By Autumn R. Neal
In one of my last posts I mentioned that the Edgar Snow Project is a map based exhibit and that each stop on the map has either a photo, document, or book excerpt. Like the text that I mentioned before, one of our assignments last semester was to find 12-15 exhibit items each for our sections. These could be letters, photos, journal entries, newspaper articles, or anything interesting that would add to the narrative. For this we went to the Missouri State Historical Society Research Center-Kansas City where the Edgar Snow Papers were held up until this summer (they are now at the LaBudde Special Collections). I spent quite a few hours there reading through boxes and boxes of letters and looking at a million photos. I had been interested in archival work before we started the project and this experience made me want to do it even more.
Going through the boxes of letters and photos was tedious but there are a lot of interesting things in there. Humor in the 20s and 30s was on a whole other level than it is now. Obviously there were also serious topics discussed so it was also an educating experience. It also made me very grateful that I have a surplus of patience and can read cursive. The letters in this photo are pretty clear but there were some that were difficult to read.
I didn’t really look at this part of the assignment as work though because I had such a good time doing it. I feel like these letters should be published as a book. Aside from the obvious political importance of Snow’s work, his writing would be interesting for anyone who likes to travel and wonders what it would have been like in the 20s.
By Tony Lawson
I finally made it over the the Steamboat Arabia Museum to look for a chloroform bottle to at least get some good photos of our own for the Civil War medicine exhibit at Wornall. The bottles at Clendening Medical Library were nice, but I could not positively date them to the Civil War. They looked more 1872 than 1860s to me Esoteric, I know, but its my job. I knew I had seen a collection of medicine bottles at the SAM and their provenance was flawless.
When I finally saw the collection again this week, I learned a few things. First, the labels on many of the bottles were paper and were destroyed by the mud and water. We have no earthly idea what some of those bottles contain. At one point, the SAM sent some sample bottles to a lab for testing. The lab called back to confirm the order and had a conversation that went something like, “Yeah, some of the medicines that we do know that were widely used in this period of history contained opium and if we find opium in this stuff we have to notify the DEA and you guys are going to have to spend some money to keep it secured and inaccessible from the public.” Umm…okay box it up and send it back. Click…brrrrr.
Second thing learned was, they do not know whats in the bottles and they do not want to know what is in the bottles. So, no chloroform bottle yet, however, I did meet a man who offered to loan us a Civil War saber and bayonet. Unfortunately, those items accounted for only about 2-4% of Civil War battle wounds.
Unfortunately, my work here at UMKC History Makers is at its end. I have enjoyed writing these blogs and I hope anyone that read them found some of that joy too. I hope we meet this way again in the future. In the meantime, the the search for artifacts and archives continues, the dream lives on, and I have many miles to go before I rest.
UMKC’s HistoryMakers meet with Dr. Cantwell in his office, preparing to make some history.
By Matthew Reeves
People make history every day, but few get a chance to see the nuts and bolts of historical work behind the scenes. Our hope is that HistoryMakers will make these historical processes more transparent. As aspiring public historians, the students you find here at HistoryMakers (yours truly included) have set themselves on the path to wealth and fortune. Well, that is, if you consider knowledge wealth and a career in the humanities fortune.
This blog is the best way for you to come along on our journey. As interns, we’re by definition new to the tasks we will be assigned. We will share our experiences – be they exciting, confounding, or just curious – as we explore the places where history becomes public. The humanities are changing, technology makes knowledge more accessible than ever before, and the ways people come into contact with history are undergoing their own seismic shifts. Join us and discover firsthand how HistoryMakers are transforming history from a subject about something into compelling experiences for people.