History Channel grant helps sustain World War I artifact archiving project

GREEN BAY — A nearly $10,000 Save Our History grant from The History Channel will help make available to the public thousands of historical letters, photographs and documents from Brown County’s World War I veterans.

The History Channel announced this week that Green Bay’s Neville Public Museum, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Preble High School are recipients of a $9,842 award to continue archiving World War I artifacts from area soldiers.

The museum, UW-Green Bay and Preble High School are working together to digitize the artifacts and make a searchable database, allowing the public, students, teachers and researchers to reconnect with the lives and stories of these World War I veterans.

“This award is a tremendous opportunity for the University to continue to develop its successful and meaningful relationship with the Neville Public Museum and to develop a new relationship with Preble High School,” said Prof. Andrew Kersten, who helped initiate the project last year with students enrolled in his History Seminar course.

UW-Green Bay students got a start on the work but were unable to finish archiving the collection before the semester ended. Part of the grant money will pay for a student worker to complete what was started by the History Seminar class project, Kersten said.

“The final product will not only be a boon to scholars, teachers, researchers, and students, but also a testament to the soldiers from this area who served in the First World War,” Kersten said.

WWI Archives

UW-Green Bay’s Area Research Center in the David A. Cofrin Library houses the records of more than 1,700 area soldiers originally collected by the Brown County War History Commission.

Unfortunately, the extremely fragile records are difficult to navigate given the commission’s complicated numerical system.

Digitizing the collection of documents will make them available to a much wider audience and will help to preserve the original records for future generations.

Once the records are archived, the database will be available and searchable online. Students will also help develop information for a display kiosk that will be kept at the Neville Public Museum.

Preble High School students are helping with the archiving and exhibit, and are also using the project to create new lesson plans at their school, said Trevor Jones, curator of history at the Neville Public Museum.

“We’re not just doing this project for the online database and exhibit,” Jones said. “We’re working with high school students to get them engaged with these resources.

“The end product will be useful for teachers, students, genealogists, researchers and the community. This grant and the collaboration between all these entities will help bring an amazing collection of artifacts off of the shelves and into public view.”