For the fourth time, the Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) was awarded a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) in the Publishing Historical Records program. The $78,800 grant will fund one full-time staff member and two Graduate Research Associates. The team will continue to digitally publish historical documents and expand the historical social network of over 7,000 individuals.
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.
The Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) is pleased to announce the addition of Natalie C. Smith to the project’s editorial staff.
Smith’s position is funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and is focused on preparing both texts and annotations for publication in the newly expanded CWGK web interface.
Smith brings skills in publishing, textual editing, and digital database research from her work on a Master of Letters in Romantic and Victorian English literature from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Most recently, Smith has served as a program assistant for the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, where she was involved in civics educational outreach and gained archival experience working at the center’s Mitch McConnell and Elaine L. Chao Archives.
Smith’s academic and professional work has placed her at the center of collections management, digital research and publication, and creative public outreach within the Commonwealth. These linked missions lay at the heart of CWGK, and allow the project to play a dynamic role in the life of the Kentucky Historical Society and national organizations such as the Association for Documentary Editing. “Academic research today is fundamentally different than it once was,” Smith says, “and the expansion of digital humanities responds to the ever-constant cry that the humanities are in crisis.” Smith will add momentum to CWGK’s ongoing efforts to address that crisis on multiple fronts. “Together with my work coordinating professional development opportunities with Kentucky social studies teachers, my passion for making Kentucky history more accessible to the public has grown.”
“I desire to give back to my home state of Kentucky,” the Elizabethtown native and University of Louisville alum concludes. CWGK and KHS are excited to afford new opportunities for Natalie to do so.
The Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) team is happy to announce the launch of the new, annotated CWGK website! The updated and expanded site publishes for the first time 350 fully annotated documents and combines the previously launched Omeka platform with the power and versatility of our annotation tool—Mashbill—to produce complex social networking visualizations for each entity (person, organization, place, and geographical feature). The CWGK team worked with Brumfield Labs and Dazhi Jiao to complete this latest digital publishing platform.
Let’s explore the entity page of Governor James Fisher Robinson. You can see Robinson’s social network and a visualization of this network—for example, his connection to G. F. Cook (circled in black).
And looking at the entity page for G. F. Cook, we see his connection to Governor Robinson.
The legend on the left depicts the different types of entities you will see in the visualization and the different types of relationships that link them together.
Back to Robinson’s entity page, there are many more important pieces of information. First, you can see the full biographical entry for Robinson and the citation for the sources consulted in writing his biography.
Below the visualization are a series of tabs that will give you access to additional information and tools about each entity. There are four tabs: Metadata, Citation, Documents, and Download.
The metadata tab will give you access to the entities birth date, death date, gender, race, and entity type.
The citation tab will give the full entity citation for the convenience of the researcher.
The documents tab will give you a list of EVERY document that this particular entity is linked to throughout the CWGK website. The list is quite long for Robinson.
The download tab will allow you to download the XML code for that particular entity.
This is just the beginning of publishing fully annotated documents and visualizations on the CWGK website. Eventually, tens of thousands more documents and hundreds of thousands more entities will be published. Updates to the site will appear continually as the editing process continues and each document is completed.
So stay tuned and visit often!
Mississippi State University Associate Professor of History Anne E. Marshall reviewed CWGK in the September 2017 issue of the Journal of American History. The JAH has taken a leading role in the promotion of digital scholarship by commissioning and publishing reviews of digital history resources. Some highlights from Marshall’s review include:
The CWGK is a rich and versatile project, well conceived and well executed. The site is meant to be useful to a vast array of viewers, it has the imprimatur and standards of the latest academic approaches to the Civil War. … This project provides an impressive model of what state historical agencies are capable of producing with the dedication of enough human and financial resources.
KHS Executive Director Kent Whitworth appeared on a recent episode of Think Humanities, the podcast of the Kentucky Humanities Council. After a discussion of how we make history relevant to the pressing issues of the present, Whitworth and KHC Executive Director Bill Goodman turned to CWGK as an example of how KHS lives that mission through the digital humanities. The CWGK segment begins at about the 20:14 mark.
What mental health struggles did Civil War veterans face when they came back from the war? What happened to women and families when violence and the end of slavery forced them into refugee camps outside of military posts and Kentucky cities? What new economic opportunities arose amid the destruction of the Civil War years? How are the experiences of these everyday Kentuckians 150 years ago relevant to the challenges that face the Commonwealth today?
These are just a few of the questions that the Kentucky Historical Society’s Civil War Governors of Kentucky (CWGK) project helps researchers, students and policymakers address through a free, online collection of more than 10,000 documents associated with Kentucky’s three Union and two Confederate governors.
CWGK has received a new three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to expand the number of texts it publishes online and enhance the ways that users can study them. This $300,000 grant in the Scholarly Editions and Translations program will continue NEH support for one full-time assistant editor and allow CWGK to hire a full-time research associate.
“It is an honor to receive one of these incredibly competitive awards,” said CWGK Project Director Patrick Lewis. “CWGK’s success on this national stage really is a reflection of the importance of KHS’s mission and our agency’s commitment to bridging the gap between historical research and finding ways to address the challenges that face us today. Kentucky issues are American issues, and they have been for centuries. Every citizen of the Commonwealth should be proud that national institutions like NEH look to KHS to lead these important American conversations.”
With this support between October 2017 and September 2020, CWGK will:
- Annotate and socially network each individual found in 3,000 documents
- Develop three classroom/public dialogue packages centered around pressing contemporary and historical issues highlighted through CWGK documents
- Plan an intensive search for relevant Kentucky documents in the National Archives and Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Since its public launch in 2011, CWGK has received two, three-year grants from NEH and three single-year grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Generous support for the project also has come from private donations to the Kentucky Historical Society Foundation.
Follow the discussions from the June 2017 CWGK symposium as they evolved in real time!
CWGK Graduate Research Associate Hannah O’Daniel created this Storify recap of the sessions in the Old State Capitol. More recap coverage is coming soon, and the papers will appear in an upcoming issue of the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society!
Civil War Governors of Kentucky project director Patrick Lewis joins a world-class group of scholars and editors on the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Review and Planning Team. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum convened the team to assess over 15 years of editorial work on the Papers of Abraham Lincoln and to consult on digital platforms to publish images, transcriptions, and annotations of documents from throughout Lincoln’s life.
In addition to Lewis, other members of the Review and Planning Team include:
- Daniel Feller, director of the Papers of Andrew Jackson project at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville
- Susan Perdue, director of the Documents Compass program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
- Matthew Pinsker, director of Dickinson College’s House Divided Project
- Jennifer Stertzer, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Digital Editing and senior editor for the Papers of George Washington Digital Edition
These projects represent the cutting edge in documentary editing and digital history. The inclusion of CWGK among them is a testament to the importance of the work this project has done since it organized in 2010. In addition to delivering a new perspective on the Civil War to teachers, students, and researchers across the Commonwealth and the United States, CWGK has earned a seat at the table for important discussions about where the history field will go in the twenty-first century.
“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.”
The Papers of Abraham Lincoln project began in 1985 as the Lincoln Legal Papers Project, dedicated to finding all surviving records from Lincoln’s legal career. When that work was finished, the mission was expanded in 2000 to finding all Lincoln documents and putting them into a digital format.
Civil War Governors of Kentucky project director Patrick Lewis and Kentucky Historical Society colleague Mandy Higgins led a #TuesdayTakeover of the Southern Historical Association’s Graduate Council Twitter feed on February 14, 2017.
The SHA Grad Council invites historians to share career advice with emerging professionals in graduate programs across the United States. Lewis and Higgins live tweeted their work day and used their activities to offer tips and advice on managing public history careers, digital history startup and sustainability, and the transferability of graduate skills into the public history workplace.
Preview the day’s advice below, and see the full recap here: