Digitizing of southeast Missouri Civil War materials continues

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 | 1:45 p.m. CDT

CAPE GIRARDEAU — An effort at Southeast Missouri State University to digitize historical information from the Civil War is on pace to be completed by next summer.

The project at Kent Library is titled "Confluence and Crossroads: The Civil War in the American Heartland." The Southeast Missourian reports that more than 1,600 documents, photographs and artifacts have been gathered from 28 counties — 23 in southeast Missouri and five in southern Illinois.

A $73,000 grant from the Missouri State Library will allow for the next phase of work — digitizing and cataloging the historical items. The work is expected to be finished by July 15. The total project cost is expected to be around $153,000.

The goal is to develop extensive digital archives of the region's Civil War materials for viewing on the Internet. The website will offer information for researchers as well as K-12 lesson plans.

Participants in the project scoured counties and archives in the Missouri Bootheel region and southern Illinois, looking for documents and photos. They traveled to many places to photograph authentic war-related items and spent hours on the phone with collectors of Civil War memorabilia.

Other institutions, including Southern Illinois University, shared documents and photographs that have already been digitized. But project manager Ellen Ryan and graduate assistant A.J. Medlock gathered most of it by traveling to museums, historical societies, libraries and archives.

"There were always challenges," Ryan said. "Sometimes it involved documents being not so authentic. Other times it was working with the confines of a budget. And traveling wasn't always easy."

Project director Dr. Lisa Speer said some items might be placed on the Web before July 15 to "generate momentum and excitement."

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