Kindling the Fires of Patriotism: The Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Indiana, 1866-1949

Master's Thesis Cover

The folks at IUPUI ScholarWorks have finally digitized my master’s thesis on the Indiana Grand Army of the Republic, which was completed back in May of this year. The IUPUI University Library runs ScholarWorks and strongly advocates open access policies that allow free public access to scholarship created by IUPUI graduate students. I heartily endorse these policies because I find the idea of dedicating two years of your life to a project that merely leads to a hardback copy of your thesis on the history department’s dusty bookshelf to be absurd.

If you’d like to view and/or download a PDF copy of the thesis, you may do so free of charge by clicking on the link here.


My First Journal Article

GAR veterans from Garland Post 423, Waveland, Indiana. Photo courtesy of 40th Indiana:
GAR veterans from Garland Post 423, Waveland, Indiana. Photo courtesy of 40th Indiana:

I am pleased to announce the official publication of my first scholarly journal article. The article–which is entitled “One Nation, One Flag, One Language: The Grand Army of the Republic and the Patriotic Instruction Movement in Indiana”–is included in the December 2014 issue (Volume 1, issue 6) of The Americanist Independent, an online academic journal and multimedia website run by California-based independent historian Keith Harris. Keith is an expert in Civil War history, memory, and veteran culture whose first book was recently published by Louisiana State University Press, so it’s quite an honor to have him publish my own scholarship on the Hoosier Civil War veterans who composed the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Indiana.

One great thing about The Americanist Independent is that the journal is open access, which means that you can download my article and tons of other great scholarship for FREE. Simply follow this link to register as a user of The Americanist Independent website and boom! It’s all yours.

This journal article is an outgrowth of the third chapter of my Master’s thesis on the Indiana GAR. I spent a considerable amount of time during the research process going through the official records of the Indiana GAR’s annual meetings, which include a wide variety of speeches from state leadership outlining goals, objectives, and political statements for the rest of the organization’s membership. Starting with the meetings during the mid-1880s and 1890s, I noticed that Indiana GAR leaders spent an increasing amount of time complaining about the types of textbooks Hoosier schoolchildren used in their history classrooms and their allegedly “poor” understanding of Civil War history. The organization established an official leader of “Patriotic Instruction” in 1907 who traveled the state giving presentations about the Civil War and encouraging patriotic sentiments in young schoolchildren. The Indiana GAR eventually promoted three interrelated goals for encouraging patriotism in Indiana public schools: the implementation of history textbooks with a “correct” interpretation of Civil War history, the raising of American flags and hosting of lavish patriotic ceremonies, and a comprehensive “military instruction” program that included firearms training and military drill for all boys.

Be sure to download my article to learn more.


Academic Publishing Should Encourage Access and Knowledge Sharing

A few days ago Al-Jazeera English columnist Sarah Kendzior wrote a thoughtful essay in which she asks, “What’s the point of academic publishing?”

The question is an important one to ask. Prior to starting graduate school in 2012 I had little idea how much criticism traditional academic publishing ventures–more specifically, peer-reviewed scholarly journals–have received over the past few years. Although my interests are mainly focused on teaching history to a public audience outside the academic classroom, I still have an interest in working with an academic publisher someday. Back in 2012 I figured that getting articles published in journals was a great starting point for getting one’s name out in scholarly circles and, if I decided to continue my education and pursue my doctorate in the future, I’d be in a position to have strong credentials for possibly pursuing a career in academia. I love the capacity for intellectual growth that academia provides, and I would love to someday teach my own college courses, whether that be next year or thirty years from now. The point of academic publishing, I believed, served a dual purpose of boosting one’s credentials in academic circles and disseminating knowledge to non-academic audiences.

Unfortunately, the actual reality of academic publishing is not that simple. Kendzior’s article is one of many that has been published in the past year and a half calling out the practices of academic universities and their publishing wings. For one, the idea of publishing as an avenue to academic employment is a myth. According to Kendzior, “the harsh truth is that many scholars with multiple journal articles —and even multiple books—still do not find full-time employment.” More and more tenure-track positions require a hefty track record of publishing endeavors, but the number of available full-time, tenured positions in academia has gone down tremendously. In 1975, 45% of all professorial positions were tenured or tenure-track. By 2009, that number dropped more than twenty percent, and the New York Times published a report last April pointing out that 76% of all professorial positions today are filled by contingent adjunct faculty. The amount of academic scholarship being produced today is unprecedented in quantity, but the number of available positions for the people who produce that scholarship is diminishing.

Adjunct faculty in colleges and universities around the country teach in absolutely horrible conditions. They are essentially contract labor, jumping from school to school looking for courses to teach. If they’re lucky, they get paid around $3,500-$4,000 per three credit course and they teach somewhere around five to eight classes a semester (most tenured professors teach between one and three classes per semester). They receive no health benefits and pretty much no chance for tenure, and what I’ve just described is actually ideal for a contingent faculty member. The situation is usually worse. An adjunct whose resignation letter from a Pennsylvania college was published online yesterday was making $3,150 per three-credit course and restricted to a maximum of four classes per semester, which equates to $25,200 per year before taxes. Another Pennsylvania adjunct professor died last year at the age of 83 after years of working as an adjunct. She had been receiving cancer treatment (and remember, adjuncts get no insurance) and was struggling to pay her house bills. The university she worked for had recently ended their contract with her, and she died penniless.

The second issue with academic publishing is that much of the scholarship that is being published today is not getting into the hands of those outside academia who want to learn from it. As Kendzior remarks, “with the odds of finding a tenure-track job against them, graduate students are told to plan for a backup career, while simultaneously being told to publish jargon-filled research in paywalled journals.” Paywalled, subscription-based services like ProQuest and JSTOR charge exorbitant fees for access to scholarly books, articles, Ph.D. dissertations, and other content that is already funded in part by taxpayers who fund the public universities that contribute much of this academic content. While students and faculty in academia have access to this content, it is difficult and expensive for those outside of academia to access it, even though their tax dollars have gone towards it production.

So, in sum, it seems as if academics are producing content for themselves first and foremost, which is extremely unfortunate. I believe the ultimate goal of academic publishing should be to disseminate knowledge to those who want to learn from it, regardless of their job title or financial resources. I am proud of the fact that the IUPUI University Library has committed itself to open access scholarship, and my master’s thesis will be freely available for download to anyone when it is completed later this year. I am also working on writing an article for a scholarly journal that will ideally be published within the next year or so. I hope this proposed article is made open access as well.

When I think about the point of academic publishing, four questions emerge in my mind:

1. What’s the point of academic publishing if your work is locked behind a paywall?

2. If I want to connect with an audience beyond the ivory tower, what mediums give me the best opportunity to do so?

3. What’s the point of academic publishing if it’s being demanded as a job requirement for a field I most likely can’t break into?

4. How do I make academic publishing work for my interests and not the other way around?

Academic publishing is important to me as student and a scholar. I rely on academic publishing to provide me the latest and best scholarship on topics that interest me as a reader and as a researcher, and I believe society benefits immensely from the work of academic scholars. If scholars hope to reach an audience beyond the academy in the future, however, I believe the purpose of academic publishing needs to be redefined in ways that encourage access for all, not paywalls for most. It would also help if we started paying Ph.D. professors enough money to not have to rely on food stamps to get by.


News and Notes: October 24, 2013

Interesting reads from the interwebs…

Musings on culture and technology

  • An addendum to my last post on sports and identity: I had never heard of David Cain before, but this essay on contemporary lifestyles is excellent. Cain argues that the 40 hour workweek is unnecessary in today’s world, but that this form of scheduling continues to be deliberately utilized so that we use what little free time we have to gratify ourselves and spend money. “Western economies, particularly that of the United States, have been built in a very calculated manner on gratification, addiction, and unnecessary spending. We spend to cheer ourselves up, to reward ourselves, to celebrate, to fix problems, to elevate our status, and to alleviate boredom.” In a strange way, I think this may partially account for our collective attachment to sports. This is not to say that sports are trivial or a waste of time. Rather, it seems to me that sports are a meaningful way to keep ourselves occupied with something entertaining and exciting when we’re not working. This is an intriguing article and I’ll be sure to read more of David Cain in the future.
  • Speaking of loneliness and boredom: Here’s a thoughtful essay on a recent rant from the comedian Louis CK on smartphones. L.M. Sacasas argues that Louis CK has a good point in arguing that smartphones are often used to mask boredom, loneliness, sadness, and a myriad of other emotions. When there’s downtime (waiting in line at the coffee shop or at a restaurant, waiting at a stoplight, a commercial on TV, etc.), our first impulse is to go to the phone screen. I’ve certainly been guilty of doing this. Louis CK suggests that these behaviors in children have serious consequences: “You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and that you’re alone. It’s down there.” Sacasas, however, points out that smashing our smartphones is not the solution. I am reminded of the movie Happy Gilmore, in which a large man is wearing an orange shirt that says “Guns don’t kill people: I kill people.” Sacasas argues for the same sort of understanding when it comes to smartphones. We have to think critically about the ways technology shapes and changes our emotions. Digital technology is here to stay, so there’s no need to be a Luddite. Smartphones don’t make people sad; the way some people use them makes them sad.
  • An interview with Douglas Rushkoff on “Present Shock” and the loss of narrative storytelling.

Public History: Remembering, Forgetting, and Shutdowns

  • Forgetting: In St. Louis, the Bernard F. Dickman bridge (popularly called the Poplar Street Bridge) was renamed the William L. Clay, Sr. Bridge. Bill McClellan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shares a few thoughts on the short memory of St. Louis and what it means when a city renames its public streets.
  • Shutdowns: Cathy Bell writes during the Government Shutdown and argues that National Parks don’t run themselves (and that much of the protesting going on against the parks was really a faux civil disobedience movement). The Washington Post asks why the national parks closed in the first place, while University of North Carolina professor Anne Whisnant calls for a “Mission 16” movement in the National Park Service that was similar to the “Mission 66” movement fifty years ago.

Open Access

  • I sometimes write about open access here at Exploring the Past. Here’s an excellent 8 minute video that outlines what the open access movement represents and why many of us are so passionate about it:

And Finally…

  • The creators of Digital Sandbox–three fellow IUPUI public history students and myself–recently submitted a poster for the National Council on Public History’s annual conference in Monterey, California, in March 2014. We found out yesterday that our poster was accepted for the conference and that all of us will most likely be there to present our poster at the conference’s poster session on Thursday, March 20. I was already going to be at the conference thanks to my current employment with NCPH, but I am glad that my cohorts will now have the opportunity to attend as well. It’s going to be a great conference and I look forward to my first trip to the western United States.


Digital Sandbox, Continued

Life is nonstop right now. Thanks to the Digital Sandbox, there is hardly any space for breathing, much less blogging at this point in time. Even “thesising” has come to a temporary stop. I am moderating AND giving a presentation on a panel about student uses of social media in addition to giving another presentation on mind mapping later in the afternoon. Furthermore, I’ve been overseeing and editing the digital sandbox blog, which has several fine posts from various talented scholars at IUPUI.

This morning I posted a blog post on open access and the history profession from Dr. Jason Kelly, who was my professor for Digital History at IUPUI this past Spring. His classes constantly challenged me, and there’s no doubt his influence is evident in my writing, especially a recent instance in which I attempted to write about open access (see here and here). As I was preparing to post Dr. Kelly’s essay to the blog, I tried to write a cogent introduction and summary of the essay. This is what I wrote:

In this essay, Dr. Jason M. Kelly analyzes the American Historical Association’s recent statement on embargoing completed history PhD dissertations and provides an in-depth summary of the history of the open access movement. Dr. Kelly–an Associate Professor of British History at IUPUI as well as Director of the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute–challenges us to consider the ways in which digital technology offers the potential to establish new, open methods for creating scholarship, methods that hold the potential to “transform our profession.” While this essay focuses on open access within the history profession, it is an issue that all disciplines will have to address in the future. To read more about open access, see “Reinventing the Academic Journal: The ‘Digital Turn’, Open Access, & Peer Review,” another piece written by Dr. Kelly in collaboration with Dr. Tim Hitchcock of the University of Hertfordshire.

I think the essay is excellent, and I highly recommend that readers check it out. You can read it here.

Once the workshop is completed, I will have more time to post all of my presentation resources/talking points to the blog.

Until Next Time…

The St. Louis Art Museum and Virtual Tours

The St. Louis Art Museum. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
The St. Louis Art Museum. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

On Saturday, June 29, the St. Louis Art Museum will be opening a new addition to its building. This wing will host a wide range of contemporary art, which in turn allows for a larger number of older paintings to go display in the main building. I’m not exactly the biggest art museum person around, but I am eager to get a chance to visit the new wing as soon as possible. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently published a virtual tour of the new wing that I’m a little too obsessed with right now.

I asked my friends on Facebook two questions about this virtual tour:

1. Does the virtual tour replace the experience of going to an Art Museum in person?

2. After looking at the virtual tour, are you more or less inclined to take time and possibly spend money to visit the Art Museum?

The fact that anybody can explore the contents of the new wing online for free is an ambitious gamble by the St. Louis Art Museum. There will undoubtedly be some people who decide not to go to the Art Museum in person because they can view it online, but in my case, seeing the virtual tour has increased my desire to see the new wing in person. The question of whether or not to put museum contents online reflects a larger debate on whether or not art should be freely posted online. For example, musicians have debated the merits of putting their music online for free (or asking for donations) for years. There are some who say no, while others say bands “shouldn’t give away all their music, but that some free downloading is okay.” Likewise, I’ve had professors who have completely railed on GoogleBooks for what they believed to be gross copyright violations for putting books online, even if it was only a small portion of the book. Concerns have also emerged in response to the creation of the Digital Public Library of America, which is putting the collections of partner libraries all over the country online, free of charge. All of these debates reflect the larger question of how best to promote artistic creations to as wide an audience as possible (and for some, making a few bucks too).

As I learn more about open access and observe more public institutions like art museums and libraries putting their content online, concerns about people having too much free access to online content or never leaving their desks to patronize libraries and museums in person are no longer a big concern with me. Putting content online for free is merely one way of establishing a relationship between artist and patron, and I think digital technology has allowed for patrons to make more informed decisions about the types of art they want to patronize. Although he was referring to concerns about the Digital Public Library of America, I think DPLA Executive Director Dan Cohen has made an eloquent argument in support of the personal, physical experience of observing art and information in person and how digital technology enhances–not detracts–that experience. To wit:

I believe that public and academic libraries will begin to understand how the DPLA instead strengthens and complements what they do. Public libraries have been, and always will be, centers of their communities, and will continue to be the place to go for high-circulating recent books, Internet access, public readings, and many other elements that the DPLA cannot and will not replace. Academic libraries are structured to support the scholarly research modes and fields of specific institutions, with collecting strategies and services to match. Both kinds of libraries will benefit greatly by what the DPLA will add to our landscape of knowledge. The DPLA will provide is a single place to discover and explore our country’s libraries, archives, and museums—a portal—and so will bring entirely new audiences to formerly scattered collections… For public libraries, the DPLA will provide a national-scale, free extension of their local holdings, and give them a place to store and garner audiences for their community’s history and content. For academic libraries, the DPLA can be used to suggest research materials and collections beyond a home institution, to create virtual exhibits and collections from federated sites, and to enhance the scholarship of students and faculty… I would hate for the launch of the DPLA to be used as an excuse to lower funding to essential physical libraries in times of austerity.

You can check out the virtual tour of the St. Louis Art Museum East Wing here.

Thoughts on Philanthropy and Open Access in Public Libraries (Part 2)

open_access-logoPart 1 is here.

In another article on Bill Gates and philanthropy, Siobhan Stevenson points out that between 1998-2004, the Gates foundation installed 47,200 internet-ready PCs in 11,000 libraries and trained 62,000 librarians in this work across the U.S. Of course, the hardware and software provided to these libraries was made by Microsoft. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, some critics have called out Gates and Microsoft for their vocal opposition to the Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) movement, which the Gates foundation has described as “communist” and “un-American.” Gates also wrote an infamous letter in 1976 in which he criticized those who were copying and sharing his Altair BASIC program. Those who believed that “hardware must be paid for, but software is something to share” were wrong, according the Gates.

Richard Stallman has been particularly critical of Gates. In 2003 he argued that the digital divide (the split between those who have access to digital information/technology and those who don’t) was largely due to Gates and “the culture surrounding proprietary software,” including copyright, patenting, and trademarks. By refusing to make Microsoft software free and open access/code, Gates created “artificial obstacles to the sharing of information” that perpetuated the digital divide. In another article, Stallman further explained that “Microsoft’s software is distributed under licenses that keep users divided and helpless. The users are divided because they are forbidden to share copies with anyone else. The users are helpless because they don’t have the source code that programmers can read and change.” For example, libraries wanting to educate their patrons on how to better use computers are forbidden from sharing software with those patrons. With libraries now receiving budget cuts around the country, they are often unable to pay the costs for fixing, upgrading, and sharing Microsoft software. As digital technology takes a more dominant presence in public libraries, the need to understand the debates on copyright, patents, and open access to information becomes heightened.

Access to academic publishing should also be a serious concern to all public librarians. Academic publishing contributes important ideas and knowledge to society, but who has access to this information? The funding for academic publishing endeavors comes mostly from two sources: public tax dollars and private donations to public universities. These published articles are then placed in online databases like JSTOR, EBSCO, and ProQuest. However, in order to access these databases, libraries have to pay steep prices. For example, the Faculty Advisory Council at Harvard University wrote in 2012 that the cost for access to academic journals online was nearing $3.75 million.

While college students are able to access these articles through their university’s subscription to these databases, many public libraries cannot afford these costs. Thus, the general public is blocked out of access to these articles, even though their tax dollars have been used to help fund their creation. Private donations to universities are used to support the academic advancement of those who can afford to attend college only.  Scientists, historians, artists, and other academics/students not associated with an academic institution are left behind, unable to access the newest research, ideas, and knowledge in their fields of interest. While public libraries continue to provide open access to print technologies such as books, magazines,  journals, etc., (and rightfully so),  those wanting to learn about a given topic in their free time on a computer–whether that computer is in the public library, or if a public library’s website is being accessed at home–are limited in what sort of material they will able to find online.

By taking questions of philanthropy and open access seriously, librarians are able to situate themselves in a better position to understand the changing nature of their profession. Philanthropy within the public library setting, according to Siobhan Stevenson, challenges us to “ensure that the community’s needs are the priority, and not those of the philanthropist.”

Regarding open access, Hugh Rundle reminds us that “open access matters because it frees up the spread of ideas and knowledge. When a person looking for answers can’t access the information they need because they don’t have a university card, don’t work in a university and don’t have thousands of dollars to spend, humanity is poorer for it.” By devising ways to enhance access to digital content in public libraries, “librarians can finally forget about selection and concentrate on discovery… collections are there to be used, and your job is to make sure they can be used. That means making information easy to access. It means helping to make it visible. It means assisting people not just to access the information that is available, but to find connections. The future is an exciting place. Let’s go there, but let’s make sure it really is open to everyone.” These poignant remarks remind us why libraries are vitally important to societies around the world and why many of us choose to pursue careers in the field of library science. What are the best methods for inspiring a love for learning in library clients? It is clear to me that finding ways to share and spread information–not locking it up–is one important path towards fostering such a love.

Thoughts on Philanthropy and Open Access in Public Libraries (Part 1)

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

I am taking an online course on the history of libraries this summer. I was recently given an assignment to analyze the changing functions of libraries in the 21st century. I used that assignment to share my thoughts on philanthropy and open access, and I feel like my final written product is appropriate for the theme of this blog. Keep in mind that much of this discussion is me “thinking out loud,” as I am still learning about open access myself. Unfortunately, the main article that I referenced for this assignment is stuck behind a paywall, ironically. So unless you have a pass to a university library/JSTOR, you’re out of luck. Here we go:

A wealthy and popular entrepreneur donates a large sum of money to their favorite charity. An alumnus of a prestigious school contributes funds to have a new dorm room built. Bill Gates donates millions of dollars to a library philanthropy program in 1997. Throughout U.S. history, philanthropy has been an important factor in the making of American culture. In a country that has maintained a lassiez-faire relationship with its government for most of its existence, the donations of America’s elite have contributed to the creation of universities, libraries, bike trails, sports teams, charities, and many other cultural institutions. Generally speaking, such philanthropic endeavors have received praise from the rest of American society, and today the most wealthy are almost expected to give up at least a part of their funds for such projects.

While still acknowledging that much good comes from philanthropy, my experiences in graduate school over the past year have challenged me to look at philanthropy with a more critical eye. In sum, large financial donations by wealthy elites oftentimes reflect the ideas, beliefs, and values of those making the donations, not those receiving the donations. When we hear of philanthropic endeavors, we must always ask ourselves, “what’s in it for those making the donation? How are they benefitting from this?” With regards to philanthropy and libraries, we must always ensure that the central promise of libraries–free and open access for all to the information they want–remains unchanged and untarnished, especially as the advent of new digital technologies challenges all librarians to become literate in new mediums of information sharing.

In her article on library philanthropy [again, paywalled. Sorry], Siobhan Stevenson analyzes the words and actions of Steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who contributed his own personal funds to help build libraries throughout the United States and the world around the turn of the twentieth century. She then attempts to use this analysis to compare Carnegie to Microsoft co-creator Bill Gates, who has recently contributed large sums of money to help bring software and internet connectivity to libraries around the world. Stevenson takes what could be considered a “Marxist approach” to Carnegie’s “political economy.” She suggests that Carnegie’s donations reflect a larger effort amongst wealthy industrial capitalists to wield control over the labor class of America (237-240). These wealthy capitalists expressed great concern over who would have the authority to control American society in an age of rapid social and economic change: who would control the government? Who would control the factories? Who would define the parameters of “the labor question”? Who would control the types of information (and access to that information) in these newly built libraries?

Stevenson then points out that “the class battle” extended itself into the press and printed word. Capitalists like Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and the Vanderbilt family took to writing to promote their views on capitol and labor. Labor leaders also took to writing, with roughly seventeen monthly journals, 400 weeklies, and several pro-labor daily publications in circulation by the 1880s (241).

Seen in this light, Carnegie’s speeches at his library dedications take on a deeper meaning, one that reflects the tensions of the debate on industrial capitalism during that time period. By building libraries, Carnegie hoped to increase the sharing of knowledge, information, and literacy throughout America, but only through specifically defined terms set by Carnegie himself. At a library dedication speech in 1889, he explained that the laboring classes could benefit from a better understanding of the “economic laws which hold the capitalist in their relentless grasp.” Furthermore, “in any questions of mechanics or any question of chemistry, any question of furnace practice, you will find the records of the world at your disposal.” Such information, Carnegie believed, was more important than studying “an ignorant past,” i.e. Greek or Latin language or culture, “which are no more practical use than Choctaw” (244-245). Carnegie hoped his libraries would help foster a more informed and literate populace, but the definition of “literacy” became one of understanding economic laws and machinery so as to understand, acknowledge, and comply with Carnegie’s capitalist ideology. It would be very interesting to analyze the library collections of a Carnegie library at the turn of the twentieth century. Did their collections include works from prominent labor leaders? Did these libraries truly create a culture of open access to all information for its clients?

Without explicitly saying so, Stevenson concludes her article by suggesting that the recent philanthropic endeavors of Bill Gates towards public libraries around the world require a more critical analysis and discussion from librarians (252-253). By providing additional funds to install computers and internet connectivity to public libraries around the world, does the Gates foundation actually promote open access in public libraries, or are there ulterior motives at play?

Part 2 comes tomorrow…