History Students Learn to Find and Tell Stories

Author: Story by Malcolm McDowell Woods | Building Illustrations by Kaitlyn Shanks '22

Published Date: 7/29/2020

Categories: F1RST Magazine F1RST Summer 2020 Faculty and Staff History Students

Making History

We tend to think of history as a series of grand personalities and earth-changing events: a parade of Churchills, Roosevelts, Rosa Parks and other men and women familiar from our history textbooks, and the days of infamy and/or acclaim: Pearl Harbor, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the War of Independence. And it is, in the sense that these pivotal events and outsized individuals do alter the course of civilization. But history is both broader, and deeper, than that.

It is the advisor to Winston Churchill, writing love letters, in vain, to the young woman who had stolen his heart. It is the enlisted young man who drowns when the ship delivering him and hundreds of other soldiers to the front, sinks. It is a mother’s son, another enlistee, a veterinarian student, who spends the first world war safely out of harm’s way, tending horses in California. 

It is an accumulation of stories, millions upon millions of them. Stories of chance, of decisions, of fateful moments, of accidents. Stories of people. 

Students Contribute to Traveling Holocaust Exhibit

A traveling exhibition exploring the American response to the Holocaust will include the contributions of several Carroll University students.

“History Unfolded: U.S Newspapers and the Holocaust” is a special undertaking of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. The museum asked researchers across the country to document how local newspapers covered the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. More than 3,500 people across the nation contributed to the research effort, including, for the past several years, students in Dr. Kimberly Redding’s history classes.

The museum recently announced a new traveling exhibit, Americans and the Holocaust, based on that research, which will visit 50 libraries across the country, including the Milwaukee Public Library next summer. 

The exhibit features an interactive display focusing on 150 articles and includes submissions by current and former Carroll students, Jeffrey Schultz, Katelyn Lombardino, Madeline Bohan and Kristina Lamm.

Learn more about the exhibit

History is the recording and the telling of stories. And in Carroll’s history classes, students each year learn to find and tell those stories. They make history.

Last fall, students in Dr. Kimberly Redding’s Kennan Seminar dived into the personal stories behind some of the landmarks in Carroll’s neighborhood. They researched and created a walking history tour of the neighborhood. The tour can be accessed through Clio, an educational website and mobile-based app that houses thousands of scholarly produced, crowd-sourced entries about landmarks and other sites of historic or cultural significance.

The Kennan Seminar is a class for students who are members of the George F. Kennan History Fellowship Program. It is taught by rotating faculty each year and typically attracts juniors and seniors in the history program. 

“The class is all history majors, who know one another pretty well and who are curious and vested in the history program,” said Redding. She sees the class as an opportunity to engage these students, many of whom will pursue graduate studies or teaching positions, with field research opportunities.

“This project gets the students thinking about communicating history in a more 21st century manner, as a way to engage the public,” said Redding. 

Students began by sampling an existing walking tour of Waukesha’s historic sites, but found it heavily oriented toward the architecture. While many walking tours similarly focus primarily on architecture, the Clio project looks at buildings as hooks into stories about the people who built and lived in them. “The Clio project in general focuses on locations as windows into local history,” said Redding. 

To develop the walking tour, students utilized several local history resources, including the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum and the archives at Carroll’s Todd Wehr library. At the Historical Society, they discovered how street names and numbered addresses may have changed over the years, as well as gathered information about the original occupants or function of the buildings. Carroll’s archives contained valuable information about the history of many of the campus buildings. 

“My initial plan was to have the students do some fact checking, but the challenge then became to build on that information,” said Redding. The Clio site has specific guidelines about what types of information is required and how the material is to be presented. The students had to build a historical narrative for each that had a beginning, a middle and an end. For their tour, students began each listing with a brief description of the building’s architecture, in part to help walk participants identify the structure, then pivoted to tell the story of its occupants.

The Carroll University Historic District tour is an easy neighborhood walk with nine stops, most of them university-related buildings, all brought to life, all steeped in history. But it’s not the only Clio tour curated by Carroll students. 

The Waukesha World War I Heritage Trail, as its name implies, offers a glimpse back at the lives of Americans during the first world war and was created by students in Redding’s research methods class. “One of the challenges of that class is to turn the students from being consumers of history into prosumers of history—producers and consumers both,” Redding explained.

Redding chose to focus on World War I and how it impacted Waukesha families. The students’ research began at the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum, where they leafed through a collection of draft registration cards. Their task: track down the person on each card. Find and tell their stories. 

“You start with something very small, such as a draft registration card,” said Redding. “That can lead you down multiple research paths.” Some were dead ends – there just wasn't enough information to be found. “Some of the students found it frustrating at the beginning, because they kept hitting dead ends. But that’s just what research is.”

The history books tell their story and the tale moves from start to finish with a feeling of inevitability, but projects like this teach us that there were millions of people making millions of individual choices all the time. “It highlights the role of contingency in life,” said Redding. “One soldier’s boat went down and he never made it to France. One was a vet student and he spent the war in California, caring for infantry horses.”

It’s all history. And everyone has a story. And sometimes it helps to have someone find the forgotten stories, and tell them anew.

Download the Tours

  • Carroll University Historic District Walking Tour 
    • Download the Clio app on your smartphone. Search for Carroll University. The app will display individual entries first; scroll down to Walking Tours and Heritage Trails and look for Carroll University Historic District.
  • Waukesha World War I Heritage Trail 
    • Download the Clio app on your smartphone. Search for Waukesha. The app will display individual entries first; scroll down to Walking Tours and Heritage Trails and look for Waukesha World War I Heritage Tour. The tour begins at the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum, housed in Waukesha County’s old courthouse, but you can start wherever you want.

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Panoramic View of campus