The History of a County Digitized

“Our concentration is on the county’s history and the idea behind the site is to learn, use, and contribute material.”–Jason Stacy

Left to Right: Lesley Thompson, Research Assistant and Ph.D student; Brendon  Floyd, Research Assistant and Master’s Student; Suze Gibson, social studies teacher.

Over the past three years, the historical branches of Madison County have been growing and expanding through Madison Historical, an online encyclopedia and digital archive. Rooted at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the archive is coordinated by the Department of Historical Studies and is edited by university professors Steve Hansen, Jason Stacy, and Jeffrey Manuel.

A quick search on Madison Historical might lead you to an image of the actual paperweight issued to SIUE professor Bruce Brubaker in 1960, thumbing through Illinois Glass Company’s product catalog, or reading about what it was like growing up during the Cold War. By simply pushing play on an oral history, you can immediately be connected to someone from a different era, “…as I got a lil’ older we moved to the other side of town, and they had just start mixing the blacks and whites together. And that’s when the racism kinda started,” stated Derek Mathis in an oral history interview about living in Venice during an era of desegregation.

“The history around you is inherently interesting,” commented Jason Stacy. “Madison Historical serves two main functions: as an encyclopedia for the county and as a digital hub for historical sites and museums.”

Another mission of the encyclopedia is to implement its use in Madison County schools. Last spring, SIUE sent three research assistants to Suze Gibson’s American History classroom at Civic Memorial High School to teach a three-day lesson tailored around the cold war. During this time, students conducted four oral interviews and also added to the website’s collection of artifacts.

“One of the many goals of Madison Historical is to provide a resource for teachers to tell the story of history through local sources. We can teach about the Cold War, but we can also teach about what was happening in this region during the Cold War,” said Associate Professor in the Department of Historical Studies, Jeffrey Manuel. “Ideally, we would like to send research assistants out every semester to showcase the website and give students the opportunity to learn about Madison County history” (Manuel).

On October 5, Madison Historical presented at the All County Teacher Development Conference, a conference that all teachers of Madison County attended. Material for Madison Historical is obtained from local experts in the community, research assistants at SIUE, and anyone willing to share stories, or digital copies of historical ephemera.

The encyclopedia and digital archive are funded by the Madison County Regional Office of Education. Interviews conducted by the students of Civic Memorial High School and artifacts that they contributed to the collection can be viewed here: Madison Historical.

[Cover photo: Universities Bond Issue Committee, “1960 Paperweight issued to Bruce Brubaker for serving on the Universities Bond Issue Committee,” Madison Historical, accessed October 4, 2018, https://madison-historical.siue.edu/archive/items/show/798]

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