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Internship Week #14: Florida National Cemetery & Writing an Article

These last couple of weeks with the Florida in World War I project have been a bit scattered. I have not been entirely focused on one aspect of the project, so I feel as though I have only partially completed things in front of me. As I have said in my previous posts, I feel as though with the time crunch of the semester on me, I want to have so much more done than I do, but I have to keep reminding myself that the project does not end with the semester or my internship. It is on going.

As seen in a previous blog post, myself and three other project coordinators made a trip to the Florida National Cemetery on the centenary of the United States’ entry into the First World War. We were able to take a number of photos that we hope we will be able to post on the Florida in World War I project website. I think too (and I may mentioned this in the post I did after the visit out to the cemetery), it was a great and enlightening experience to have had. One of the goals of this project is to bring to light Florida’s role in the First World War. The aim is to remember that there was a contribution to the war effort. I think going to the cemetery was a reminder, at least for myself, that the war effort, whether from Florida or elsewhere, was done by so many individuals with individual lives and stories.

On another note, my fellow project coordinators and I are also working on a journal article that will hopefully be published in the fall/winter in an academic journal. I am looking forward to not only having an article published, but I think this is a great opportunity for the project, now and for the future. Another goal of the project was to continuously expand and encourage others to do the same. This article will provide that opportunity.

This last week for my internship will be focused on the article, as well as trying to get other aspects of the project complete or running for a time. For example, I am trying to work more no the social media portion, which I have learned in the last several months is key. Twitter is definitely a great connection to others, not just sharing the work this project has done, but also seeing what others have done and are doing.

 

14/04/2017
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When Did I Realize I Wanted to Study History?

Posted in Blog, Studying History by

Recently I was asked the question of when did I realize I wanted to study history. I thought about the question for a time. My first thought was I realized in my second year of community college. At the time I was a psychology major and instead of getting the most out of my psychology courses, I was more drawn to my humanities and history classes. So, I switched to History. But I do not think that is when I realized I wanted to study history. I think I knew very early in life, but was not necessarily fully aware of my want to study history. But it is ironic that I was asked this question in the last few days, as the answer to this question sunk 105 years ago today.

Prior to the 1997 blockbuster hit Titanic, I remember seeing bits and pieces about the famous shipwreck on the news. Between 1987 and 1996, thousands of items from the wreckage were recovered. The stories centered on these excavations, more specifically on the debates that ensued. The main questions were: Was taking items from the site of Titanic’s final resting place, the resting place of so many lives, grave robbing? Or, was recovering the items a way of preserving history? My young mind was perplexed by this debate to say the least. I think on some level I was too young to grasp the debate fully, but I was really enthralled by it, especially by how much people cared about something that happened, at the time, 70+ years ago.

After the film came out in 1997, the artifacts from the wreck were organized into a traveling exhibit, “Titanic: The Experience.” Living in New Jersey at the time, I saw the exhibit in 1999 when it was at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City. It really was, as the exhibit was called, an experience. There was something very powerful about it- even at such a young age I felt it. What I remember most from walking through the expansive exhibit was the intense fascination I had with the individual stories behind the physical artifacts. One item I remember from the exhibit was a name bracelet that said “Amy.” Having been nearly twenty years since being in the exhibit, I do not recall what the signs read word for word, but I do recall that the bracelet’s owner was not positively identified. There were some on board the ship that had names that could be linked to the nickname Amy, or there were some passengers with the middle name Amy, but there was not a confirmation of which passenger the bracelet belonged to. I cannot say whether or not the bracelet’s owner has been identified in the last twenty or so years, but that bracelet was such a source of intrigue. It was not so much the physical bracelet itself that I was captured by, but the fact that it belonged to a person. A living, breathing person. One who may or may not have lived or died on April 14th, 1912.

I wanted to know more after I left the exhibit. Mind you, the Internet was not what it is like today, so learning about the ship and the people on it that way was somewhat limiting, at least for a small kid between the ages of 6 and 8. So, my main source of knowledge was books. And let me tell you, I read a lot of books about that ship and the people on it. But circling back to the question: when did I realize I wanted to study history? I cannot say that I knew between the ages of 6 and 8 (and beyond) that when “I grew up” I wanted to study history; but I would argue I was certainly influenced at that young age by the debate, by the exhibit, by the books- and that influence, along with other factors, put me on a metaphorical road to knowing that I wanted to study history.

(Featured Photograph Credit: Click Here)

14/04/2017
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Remembering the USA’s Entry into World War I

This last Thursday, April 6th, a small group of us from my department went to Florida National Cemetery for a number of projects, including the Florida in World War I Project. The cemetery, which is in Sumter County, is over 500 acres with over 100,000 internments. The cemetery is vast, pristinely kept, and honors veterans from numerous wars including the First World War.

April 6th marked the one hundred year centenary that the United States officially entered the ‘war to end all wars’. The United States had remained neutral during the first two and a half years; however, for a variety of reasons, President Woodrow Wilson, the man whose presidental reelection campaign centered on his keeping the USA out of war, went to and asked Congress on April 2nd to have the United States declare war on Germany. He argued that the world needed to “be made safe for democracy.” On April 6th, Wilson’s request was answered and the United States officially entered the war it was divided over. There are many debates as to whether or not the United States should have participated in the war, but the reality is whether or not the United States should or should not have entered the war, the United States did enter the war. I am not going to go into that debate or give my argument of what I believe to be the reasons why the United States entered the war. Instead, I want to reflect on my time at the cemetery on that one hundred year cenntenial.

I was honored to be at the cemetery on the centennial of the USA’s entry in the First World War to commemorate those that served. Being there reminded me that the First World War is comprised of so many individuals that sacrificed so much- not just for themselves, but for so many others. It reminded too, that there are still those who do the same now.

Below is a photograph of one of the many monuments/memorials placed in the cemetery. It was incredible to see these monuments/memorials and their dedications. The one below is dedicated to Florida veterans of World War I. The quote on the right side of the monument is from the famous “In Flanders Fields” by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. McCrae was a Canadian physician in the war, who died before the end of the war from pneumonia.

When I decided to center my research on the First World War, I was specifically drawn in by how many lives it affected and the ways it affected those lives. Going to the cemetery reminded of how war is comprised of individuals reaffirms how important it is to remember and commemorate. I hope that not only with my research and the Florida in World War I Project helps to remember and commemorate those lives.

Some of the Florida in World War I Project team at the gravesite of World War I army veterans Robert Gerlach; (L-R: Kayla Campana, Dr. Barbara Gannon, Tyler Campbell, Drew Fulcher)

07/04/2017
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Internship Week #12: Going Down the List

There are a number of loose ends that need to be tied up before the end of the semester and beginning of the summer for the Florida in World War I project. This week I have been jumping from one component of the project to another, trying to get done what I can.

First and foremost, the website design itself, I think, is fairly complete (though there will always be room for change and improvement). If you look at the images in the gallery below, you can see the way the website is setup (or feel free to click here to go directly to the website). Essentially, the homepage has a slider on it that rotates various posts and pages we want to highlight. When you go on an individual page or post, it will show you (as seen in the second screencapture) rotating promo boxes. This was a great solution to the lack of color issue that was a concern when the website first began (which you can see in the third photo in the gallery below).

The next item I worked on was the Resources page. The project’s advisor, Dr. Barbara Gannon, presented today at the Society for Military History Annual Meeting on the project. In preperation for that, I sat down with Dr. Gannon and another project coordinator, Tyler Campbell, to get some materials together in anticipation for Dr. Gannon’s presentation, which included getting some resources up. I put up several sources (online resources and books) in order to have something up while I still continue to organize and sort. I think though, whether I figure out a way to sort the sources and organize them where they are easily searchable, I may put up more in the simple format I already have. At least this way there are sources up for those that visit the website.

In addition to the work I mentioned above, I have been working on three research and writing components to the project. The first is my historiography for my internship. The second research and writing component is my encyclopedia entry for the website. The entry is in the form of a fleshed out outline, but should be a fully composed entry by next week. I have decided to use some of the research I presented at the conference I attended in London, specifically how the United States viewed and handled those with shell shock. And thirdly, I am working on an academic journal article that is in the works on the project for publication. I am working with my fellow project coordinators to write about the creation and history of the project, as well as a myriad of components that have sprung from the project including the Soldiers of Florida databases, the website, conference papers and posters (see below for screenshot of the poster that the project presented at the 2016 Graduate Research Forum at UCF), and more.

There is definitely a great deal to work on this upcoming week. Let’s hope for a productive one!

31/03/2017
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