Patrick Lewis will take the Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWG-K) across the Atlantic to the David Bruce Centre for American Studies at Keele University in Staffordshire, England. On October 30, 2015, he will present with leading scholars from the United States, Canada, and the U.K. at the Bruce Centre’s colloquium on the Civil War and Slavery. He was interviewed by the Insider, the KHS staff magazine.
For updates on the trip, follow Patrick @KyPLewis and #CWGK
Q: What makes this opportunity at Keele special?
A: A couple of things. First, it allows KHS to demonstrate what our staff already knows; we are doing world class work here and our emphasis on digital dissemination of our collections, our resources and our scholarship means that Kentucky history will be front and center as students, teachers and researchers across the world write the next generation of history and use Kentucky lessons to address worldwide challenges.
But this isn’t just about KHS making connections to international institutions. This colloquium highlights how the quality of KHS programs feeds off of and mutually benefits each other. The event is being organized by two-time KHS Scholarly Research Fellow Laura Sandy. A few years ago, Laura came to do work on so-called “slave stealing” abolitionists in the antebellum era. We at CWG-K knew that our project would have wonderful material for her to extend that study into the war years, but we weren’t far enough along to let her access anything.
When Laura came back this summer, that had changed. She spent weeks combing through our nearly 12,000 transcribed documents and took home a massive haul of primary sources for herself, her graduate students, and her classroom. Laura was putting together the program for the colloquium while she was in Kentucky and insisted that we come to share CWG-K with American historians working in the U.K.
This opportunity to show the power of CWG-K to an international audience would never have been possible if KHS hadn’t built a relationship with Laura through the fellowship program. Our quality work across the organization helps us build a reputation for excellence, launch new programs and find new constituents in unexpected places.
Q: Why is a project like Civil War Governors important for international scholars?
A: Access. Laura knows firsthand how difficult it can be to find research travel funds. The financial barrier to conducting original research is huge for domestic scholars, but it is unbelievable for those across an ocean. CWG-K will break down those barriers by providing free digital access to documents from archives in Kentucky and across the United States. For the people at this colloquium, CWG-K is a lifeline for teaching and research material that will sustain American history programs in the U.K.
But this question of access is just as important here in Kentucky as it is in England. For students and teachers in rural counties who can’t afford to travel or purchase historical database subscriptions, CWG-K provides them free access to world class content that fits their curricular needs and is set in their home towns.
Access is why CWG-K is such a great KHS project. It gives back to our Kentucky communities while it simultaneously faces outward and shows the best of the Commonwealth to the world.
Q: So, with CWG-K going online soon, why do scholars like Laura even need to come to KHS anymore?
A: Simple, for every question that CWG-K will help researchers answer, it will raise many more. CWG-K couldn’t be a better advertisement for doing historical work in Kentucky and on Kentucky topics. Say a student uses CWG-K to write a short seminar paper; as they look to expand that germ of an idea into a thesis or dissertation, they seek out KHS collections and apply for KHS fellowships to broaden their source base and confirm the initial findings they made using our database. They find more resources in our online catalog and digital collections, make a list of relevant artifacts in the object catalog, tap KHS staff connections to find related content in Lexington and Louisville, spin off a chapter for publication in the Register, and serve as panelists for a public symposium we host.
CWG-K will be yet another access point that establishes relationships between KHS and history professionals. And KHS has an excellent habit of developing those relationships into really productive partnerships that touch on every part of KHS and benefit all of our constituent groups.