CWGK Profiled in Hallowed Ground

Hallowed Ground, the magazine of the American Battlefield Trust, profiled CWGK in its Winter 2018 issue.

A digital version of the piece can be read here.

“I have developed a profound empathy for both the plaintive citizens bringing horrifying tales of death, crime, sexual violence, destitution and starvation, as well as for the representatives of government at all levels who are chronically unable to muster sufficient resources to address the systemic problems they saw,” said program director Patrick Lewis. “It is easy to see the Civil War as a crisis of elected government — at a legislative, gubernatorial, Congressional, and especially Presidential level — but I have come to appreciate the war as it drug down an underprepared and underpowered civil service under the weight of modern, total war.”

“History has too few characters. We don’t know enough names. We don’t know enough stories. This limits what we can say about the past,” said Lewis. “The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition proposes a bold new solution to this problem. We find the characters, hidden in archives across the country. We publish their stories in the form of 30–40,000 historical documents. And we treat every individual — man or woman, free or slave, Union and Confederate — as an historical actor worthy of study.…This is the closest thing we can get to a time machine.”

“The Union as it Was”

What expectations did people have of local, state, and federal governments? Who were the faces of governance in their communities? How did they conceive of justice and equity? How did they understand the interaction of branches and levels of government, and how did they play governing institutions off of one another to secure the outcomes they desired?

In the Fall 2018 issue of The Federalist, the newsletter of the Society for History in the Federal Government, CWGK Project Director Patrick Lewis reflected on the important and relevant questions that the project has raised — both in the materials that it has found, published, and annotated and also in the process of managing a program within state government.

From using social networking to discover local power brokers operating outside the formal channels of power to appreciating the inability of antebellum institutions to cope with the overwhelming crisis that secession and Civil War brought to Kentucky society, CWGK provides a new research path forward for historians. How did people understand their government before the war and, when the conflict came to their doorstep, what expectations did they have for government intervention and assistance?

I have developed a profound empathy for both the plaintive citizens bringing horrifying tales of death, crime, sexual violence, destitution, and starvation as well as for the representatives of government at all levels who are chronically unable to muster sufficient resources to address the systemic problems they saw. It is easy to see the Civil War as a crisis of elected government—at a legislative, gubernatorial, Congressional, and especially Presidential level—but I have come to appreciate the war as it drug down an underprepared and underpowered civil service under the weight of modern, total war. The antebellum systems buckled underneath the crisis. That book is far more complicated to write than a conventional political history and far less marketable than a new battle history. That book about the slow collapse of governmental systems under unforeseen external stress might also b far more relevant to a moment when the national coffers have been drained by years of military conflict and faith in the capacity of electoral politics to address the day-to-day issues facing the citizenry is critically low.

Access a PDF of the full article here, or read the full issue at The Federalist.

Investing in the Ecosystem

Hiring good people isn’t just about creating positions within your organization. It’s about developing cooperative ecosystems that build better candidates while they’re still in graduate school. Working locally, you can build relationships that allow talented young people to attend regional universities and work with you. They come to the organization pre-invested in the mission of improving lives in their communities through history because they are from and of those communities. They give struggling regional history departments new energy and a corps of young alumni who are employed, productive, and ready to give back to their department in innumerable ways. Through their success, they prove to their departments that public history isn’t a backup plan but a specialized career that demands skills over and above those taught by conventional academics.

Read the full article here

Amanda L. Higgins and Patrick A. Lewis, “Investing in the Ecosystem” AASLH History News 73, no. 1 (Winter 2018): 7-10.

NCDC Environmental Survey

As part of a planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the Nineteenth Century Digital Cooperative (NCDC) is exploring a sustainable system for the digital publication and discovery of historical records. This environmental survey of existing projects, methods, and data models is the first deliverable from NCDC for this 2018 planning year. While it was composed with an eye to the specific ends of this cooperative, NCDC hopes that it will be of use to digital humanists seeking to aggregate and link large historical datasets.

You may access a PDF version of the NCDC Environmental Survey here.

Co-Authors: Susan Perdue, Sara Carlstead Brumfield, Ben Brumfield

Nineteenth Century Digital Cooperative

The Nineteenth Century Digital Cooperative (NCDC) is a Digital Edition Publishing Cooperative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Under Principal Investigator Patrick Lewis, the NCDC is hosted by the Kentucky Historical Society, and consists of three initial partner projects:

The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition

The Frederick Douglass Papers

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln

The mission of the NCDC is to create an aggregated body of named historical figures, with associated metadata and biographies—some well-known but most not—referenced in the corpuses of the member editions. Bringing together born-digital and print editions as well as making room for other digital or digitized biographical data sets which are not based in edited texts, the NCDC would enhance the power and reach of digital editions working on nineteenth century U.S. topics—both increasing the efficiency of editorial production and facilitating user access to the editions.

Read more about the NCDC here.

Nursing Clio: “To ‘Serve this Long Term at Home'”

A contribution to Nursing Clio on troubled Civil War veteran and CWGK find Robert Buffum. How did the specific trauma of his wartime experience, namely being a prisoner of war, clash tragically with the institutional solutions his society had to postwar mental health problems?

For all the differences between Buffum’s United States and our own, between Buffum’s war and those our military fight now, his story nonetheless points out that the challenges our veterans face are the product not only of a foreign policy that places them in traumatic theaters of war, but also of domestic policy, which too often fails to follow through on the promise of support and opportunity made at the local recruiting station. For all that has changed since Robert Buffum killed himself, so much else remains tragically the same.

Read the full post on Nursing Clio.

Use Buffum’s story in your classroom or community forum through CWGK documents and discussion materials.

The Trials of Robert Buffum

Recording of a July 2017 talk at KHS on the postwar struggles of Medal of Honor winner Lt. Robert Buffum.

Buffum’s story of mental health problems, substance abuse, domestic trouble, and suicide echoes the struggles that many veterans face today. CWGK has developed an online exhibit and document reader suitable for the classroom and community group discussions. Link here.

Lincoln Papers Review & Planning Team

I am honored to have been included in a stellar group of editors and scholars on the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Review and Planning Team. The PAL assembled the team to advise on next steps as PAL, one of the most ambitious digital editions ever imagined, looks to convert over 15 years of editorial work into its first digital publications.

Read more in the State Journal-Register

Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, said the new team has worked on similar projects and will assist with the current staff to help publish these documents onto the museum’s website.

“These folks that were brought in have worked on different projects around the country, and have many years of experience in different areas,” Lowe said. “They’re all quite skilled in documentary editing and understand that world.”