Something came through my inbox yesterday that I thought I’d pass along.

The National Park Service has a new project aimed at high school students throughout the country.  It’s the National Park Memory Trail.  The hope is to get students, working under the guidance of their teachers and local librarians, involved in the Civil War sesquicentennial.  The Memory Trail is designed to allow students to do real research on their own communities and create digital narratives which will then be posted on the National Park Service website.  Students can research what life was like in their local community in the early months of 1861.  Or, they might explore how the war’s centennial coincided with the Civil Rights Movement.  Finally, they might reflect on their own place in our nation’s history and where this awareness might lead them in the future.  It’s called the Memory Trail because viewers will be able to click on a map of the U.S. and read the narrative of each participating locale.

You may be asking yourself, what did my little town have to do with the American Civil War?

The answer is, probably more than you think.

Over three million soldiers fought in the American Civil War.  Some were city slickers from Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Manhattan’s Bowery; others were rubes from hamlets too tiny to be found on any map.  Then there were the parents, wives, children, sweethearts, and other loved ones left behind to cope as best they could.  The war reached into every household in America, including undoubtedly the town where you live today.

I’ve worked in small museums and libraries throughout the country and can tell you that much of the most interesting scholarship is done at the local level.  There is the genealogists maintaining funeral records of the town’s ancestors in a small office in her own home, the archivist at the local historical society safeguarding (usually on a shoestring) the town’s collection of artifacts, and the librarian conserving old newspaper clippings and one-of-a-kind ephemera in the library’s now seldom used Vertical File.  There is a great deal of material out there to work with.  Photographs, letters, oral histories, maps, postcards, and old advertisements are a few examples of things today’s young researcher might use for her narrative.

To find out more, go here:

Thanks for checking in.

Keith