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Kentucky Historical Society Inspires New Research Project in Mississippi

A Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) initiative to collect and make available information in documents related to the Kentucky governor’s office during the Civil War years has spawned a similar initiative at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). Since 2010, KHS staff have located, scanned, transcribed and published in the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition (CWGK) more than 10,000 documents generated by, or sent to, the Kentucky governor’s office between 1860 and 1865.

Graduate assistants nationwide and KHS staff are annotating each document with biographical information to create a historical “social network” that, so far, contains more than 8,000 people. They also are adding metadata to each document that will help create a research platform that will allow people to access, understand and analyze the information in ways we cannot yet imagine, said Patrick Lewis, CWGK director. USM is modeling its new initiative, the Civil War Governors of Mississippi (CWGM), after CWGK.

The scope of the USM project will be 1859 to the 1880s, allowing USM “to learn more about how Mississippians functioned as a state at war, during the transition from slavery to emancipation, under military occupation and into the Jim Crow South,” said Susannah Ural, CWGM director. CWGK has brought to light stories ranging from crop failure to gun violence to opioid addiction. “Nearly every pressing issue facing our Commonwealth today is found in CWGK documents,” said Patrick Lewis, CWGK director. “Now, everyone has free, online access to these stories which were silenced for a century and a half.” USM's initiative will help provide an even broader understanding of issues that faced people in the mid to late 19th century. CWGK has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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