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Children in Urban America:
A digital archive

James Marten
Marquette University

1. RATIONALE: The Children in Urban America Project (CUAP) will seek to help students, teachers, and the general public discover how the urban experience shaped the lives of the children who grew up in American cities from the mid-nineteenth century to the turn of the twenty-first century. During that time the United States went from a largely rural to an overwhelmingly urban nation. Its cities became the stages for great economic opportunities and crushing economic hardships, displayed outrageous political corruption and daring social reforms, and came to represent the United States to the rest of the world. During that same time, American children's lives were also transformed, as the stages of childhood and youth were extended through compulsory education, the commercialization of entertainment and leisure, and the reform of abusive child labor practices. The percentage of the population comprised by children shrank, yet the national culture became increasingly child and youth-oriented. These changes represent many of the central themes in the history of the United States since the mid-nineteenth century. The Children in Urban America Project will trace these dramatic changes through an educational web site consisting of an extensive archive of documents, photographs, statistics, and other information, with the children of Milwaukee serving as case studies.

Historiographical Context. The project will bring together two important historical fields: urban history and children's history. Urban historians have been in the forefront of the "new social history" -- which, after more than thirty years, is not so new anymore -- researching such issues as demography, ethnicity and race, transportation and technology, government programs, and other topics that will form the heart of CUAP. While urban history is a well-established field among professional historians, children's history is, so to speak, in its infancy. Although the French historian Philippe Aries published his path breaking Centuries of Childhood in 1960, it has been only in the last thirty or so years that American scholars have become seriously interested in the history of children. Recent years have seen a remarkable outpouring of books in children's studies and H-Childhood has become a lively member of the H-Net family of discussion groups. (A sample bibliography of the secondary literature appears in APPENDIX 1.) A recent article about children's studies suggests that the scholarly fascination with children stems from serious concerns over the evolution of childhood and from scholars' hope to meld historical research with contemporary policy issues; they seek, as the title of the article indicates, to find "The Meaning of Children in Culture."

Historians have tended to take one of two approaches to their study of children, argues Hugh Cunningham in the American Historical Review. Some scholars, stressing the way that adults have thought about and treated children, focus on schools, child-saving institutions, and theories of child rearing, believing that "the most interesting and answerable questions to ask" has less to do with "the lives children lived" than "with the ideas surrounding childhood." Others are more interested in children as "flesh and blood beings of a certain age." CUAP will examine both the world created FOR children and the world created BY children for, as one teacher and researcher in children's studies puts it, "it is especially valuable . . . to explore systematically both the contrasts AND the interrelationships between historical actors and their actions, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the pre-conceptions that different members of their society hold of those actors."

David Nasaw has movingly shown that American children paved the way for their elders in adjusting to the demands of urban life. "Just as today children lead us into the computer age," he wrote in the preface to his Children of the City, "seventy-five years ago they led the way into the twentieth century. In cities where the majority of adults had been raised in the countryside, it was the children who were the most comfortable, the most adaptable, the most competent." Children were the first true urbanites, according to Nasaw, and their histories are tightly bound to the history of American cities.

In addition to telling the history of the urban United States through children's eyes, CUAP will also show how larger political, social, and economic forces affected the lives of children. The project will offer concrete data about what has happened to childhood over the last 150 years, opening a fascinating window into the evolution of our society's priorities and of its expectations for the future. The prevailing historiographical trends in both urban and children's history can be tested in the wide-ranging sources included in the database. Historians, educators, and interested laypersons--perhaps even makers of policies related to cities and to children--will have literally at their fingertips thousands of documents and images on scores of topics. Moreover, by digitizing myriad kinds of sources ranging in time from the beginning of urban development to the present, the project will have the potential to help us understand critical contemporary issues.

Why Milwaukee? The value of such a collection depends, of course, on the typicality of the experiences it portrays. As a result, the question must be asked: "Why Milwaukee?" A critical mass of interested scholars and available resources make it a practical choice. More importantly, however, Milwaukee's status as an American "every city" fits the needs of the project. Long one of the country's largest cities--its population of nearly 300,000 in 1900 had nearly doubled by 1930 and reached 740,000 in 1960--Milwaukee has participated in most of the economic, social, and political transformations experienced by cities in the United States over the last century and a half. From its origins as a frontier trading post in the 1830s, Milwaukee quickly grew to become a major industrial and transportation center, with tens of thousands of workers employed by the tanneries, foundries, packing plants, breweries, and other world famous manufacturers, such as Allis Chalmers, Allen-Bradley, Harley Davidson, and Miller Brewing. Linked to the eastern United States by the Great Lakes and to the west by ten different rail lines, Milwaukee could claim, as one turn-of-the century poster did, to "Feed and Supply the World." Although the city reached its economic peak after World War II, by the 1970s Milwaukee was a "rustbelt" city that underwent the same wrenching economic dislocation as dozens of other northern metropolitan areas.

From a demographic standpoint, the city's mix of German, Irish, and "Yankee" residents before the Civil War--half of its 45,000 residents were foreign-born in 1860--and the arrival afterwards of Slovaks, Russian Jews, Italians, and Poles (for instance, Milwaukee boasted 70,000 Polish-born residents by 1910) created a diversity still reflected in summertime ethnic festivals that each attract up to a hundred thousand people annually. The rapid growth of the African American and Hispanic populations after the Second World War and of the Asian population since the 1980s reflect the population shifts in many other cities; about 70 percent of students in the Milwaukee Public Schools are now children of color. Politically, Milwaukee experienced a typical period of corruption and bossism in the Gilded Age that ended in 1910 with the election of the first of several Socialist administrations that would govern the city until the Second World War. It remains a Democratic stronghold in a Republican state. Finally, Milwaukee shares with most major urban areas economic and social problems all too common in the late twentieth century. Partly because of that simple fact, Milwaukee and Wisconsin have been at the forefront of such nationally prominent child-related controversies as school choice, charter schools, and welfare reform.

Truly, the history of Milwaukee represents the history of urban America in all its complexity, as historians have shown in books like Kathleen Neils Conzen's Immigrant Milwaukee, 1836-1860: Accommodation and Community in a Frontier City (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976) and Joe William Trotter, Jr.'s Black Milwaukee: The Making of an Industrial Proletariat (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985). More recently, Jonathon Coleman's controversial Long Way to Go: Black and White in America (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997), examined race relations in the United States through a Milwaukee prism.

Children and Cities On-Line. Obviously, historians have studied cities for generations, and the literature on the history of childhood continues to expand. Yet, both are underrepresented in the explosion of digitized sources available to scholars and educators. The University of California-Riverside's Horus guide lists scores of web sites devoted to local history and to individual towns and cities. They are generally links to museum exhibits, chambers of commerce, collections of photographs or information on specific events, or even commercial enterprises. Few are truly interactive or even searchable. One of the more creative sites, the Chicago Historical Society's on-line exhibition on the "Great Fire", uses explanatory text, documents, and images in imaginative ways, but it is not intended to provide an overview of the history of Chicago. A lively, wide ranging, and annotated listing of international internet resources on children is maintained by the University of Njmegen in the Netherlands.

Despite its name, "The History of Education Site" is not limited strictly to schooling, but also includes primary documents, images, and analyses of childrearing, literature, child abuse, and other topics. Yet none offer the kind of coverage of children's experiences in an urban setting proposed by the Children in Urban America Project. In a sense, the model for CUAP is the "Valley of the Shadow Project" at the University of Virginia. There are differences, of course: although the Valley Project has accumulated and digitized every shred of information about every person and event in two counties over a period of time from just before to just after the Civil War, our project, spanning a century-and-a-half, will necessarily be less comprehensive. We do not propose to post every single available document or to index the name of every child who ever lived in Milwaukee. Yet we do intend to be comprehensive in terms of including every kind of experience shared by children during the history of Milwaukee. In addition, like the Valley Project, the Children in Urban America Project will provide a fully searchable database of primary sources. Brief histories of Milwaukee and of childhood will be provided, and each section and topic will be introduced with a two-or-three paragraph description setting it in its appropriate historical and historiographical contexts. The site's purpose is not, however, to provide definitive answers, but to enable junior and senior high school students and their teachers, college and university students, scholars, and members of the interested public to reach their own conclusions based on easily accessible primary documents. CUAP will be as useful for the questions it asks--or encourages users to ask--as it will be for the answers it provides.

2. CONTENT: Documents will be organized into six separate sections. Each will provide a gateway to a wide variety of sources that will provide not only the "big picture" of childhood in Milwaukee and the United States, but also focus on special topics. Throughout, we will attempt to avoid the tendency of many history web pages to simply go on line "with little purpose other than to ībe up,'" in the words of a cautionary article on the web that appeared last year in the AHA Perspectives. The author later lists three common sense characteristics of truly useful web sites, all of which are included in the objectives of CUAP: "content, clarity . . . and communication." To that end, we have designed several sections dealing with specific aspects of children's lives:

  • Schooling. Documents will include information on curricula at public and parochial schools, teachers' and students' oral histories, and students' assignments. Special sections will examine Sabbath schools, the evolution of the physical plant at one or more schools, and the politics of education.
  • Work. Documents will offer data and images on children working in homes, in factories, and on the streets (as newsboys and other vendors). Special sections will look at children who took the places of men during emergencies like the Civil War and the Second World War, as well as the changing nature of part-time work since the 1950s.
  • Health and Welfare. This will explore the health of Milwaukee children from a quantitative as well as a qualitative standpoint. City and County Health Department reports and statistics will be included, of course. But documents describing the role of institutions devoted to the welfare of children (broadly defined), such as orphanages, the juvenile justice system, and Children's Hospital will also be posted. One of the special topic sections will detail the findings of archeologists studying the remains of hundreds of indigent Milwaukeeans found a few years ago in a forgotten pauper's cemetery on the Milwaukee County grounds; 40 percent were children.
  • Play and Leisure. This section will offer information on traditional toys and games, as well as commercially produced playthings and children's literature. In addition to unsponsored and unorganized play, it will also examine the recreation programs organized by the Milwaukee County Parks Department and the Milwaukee Public Schools and children's programs offered by organizations like the Boy and Girl Scouts, the YMCA and YWCA, Boys' Clubs and Girls' Clubs, and community organizations. Finally, it will include special entries on child-oriented museums and theater companies.
  • Children and History. This will provide special studies of larger events in American history as they affected the lives of urban children. These will include the politicization of children during the Civil War through play, literature, and school events; children's participation in such WW II efforts as tire, newspaper, and tin can recycling; the effect of government programs on children through the Works Progress Administration toy-sharing plan and the more recent W-2 welfare reforms; and the growth of a youth culture in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Through Children's Eyes. This section will include the material produced by children--letters, diaries, reminiscences, oral history transcripts, and drawings--in its entirety. Although excerpts from all of these sources will be included in the other sections, of course, this will be the place to access the complete documents. This is the central section for discovering the experiences of urban children from their points of view.

Finally, a vital component of each section will be a segment called "American Perspectives," which will provide documents and brief summaries of recent scholarship on children outside of Milwaukee. For instance, in the "Play and Leisure" section, one might find pages from Sears & Roebuck catalogues and ads for Walt Disney movies, while "Health and Welfare" might include excerpts from reports issued by the U. S. Children's Bureau. Most will include relevant articles from national newspapers, advice books and child rearing guides, and news magazines. The "American Perspectives" sections will help users make connections between the experiences of Milwaukee children and of children around the country, providing less comprehensive but valuable background information for their own research.

Although gender, religion, and ethnicity will not compose individual segments, they will be heavily featured--and completely searchable--throughout the project. For instance, under "Schooling" there will be separate entries for Catholic, Lutheran, and Jewish schools (elementary as well as boys' and girls' high schools), as well as the Milwaukee Public Schools' desegregation efforts in the 1970s and 1980s and more recent attempts to meet the special needs of young African Americans at schools like Malcolm X Academy. Sources. Among the primary sources that will be included are: photographs and pictures from local newspapers, archives, and private collections; excerpts from diaries, letters, and reminiscences produced by children and their parents; articles from the Milwaukee Sentinel and Milwaukee Journal as well as suburban and ethnic newspapers (the Polish Dziennik Milwaucki and the African American Community Journal, for instance); annual reports from city bureaus such as health, recreation, and social welfare; documents from Milwaukee Public Schools (such as curriculum guides and yearbooks); juvenile court records; federal, state, local, and school census reports; drawings and other art work created by children; and church records, especially regarding religious education and community events.

The sources included on the site will enable students of all ages, general users, and historians and other scholars to sample a vast array of primary documents with the gentle guidance of our introductory material, bibliographies, and internet links. A user browsing the site will log-on to an introductory overview with brief (1500 words) histories of Milwaukee and of children that would include links to bibliographies, historical sites, the "American Perspectives" sections, and other pertinent web sites. Similar introductions providing substantial contexts for the meaning and uses of the documents would greet visitors to the other core segments and to every related page within those segments. Going to the main menu, the user might select "Play and Leisure." After reading the introduction--partly drawn, perhaps, from Gary Cross's excellent new Kids' Stuff: Toys and Changing World of American Childhood (1997)--the user would choose from categories such as "Commercial Toys and Games," "Home-made Fun," "Public Libraries," "Recreation Programs," and "Museums." Each would include images (photographs, ads in local newspapers and magazines), documents (such as scanned pages from MPS recreation pamphlets or 1950s-era reports from the Milwaukee Boys' Clubs on the need for recreation centers), and the words of children, parents, and city officials describing children at play, government programs, and family outings. Throughout the section, links would be provided to other parts of the site; for instance, to the "Youth culture" in the "Children and History" segment, or to "Organized Sports" within the "Schooling" segment. (For a sample "log-on," see APPENDIX 2.)

A central philosophical principal of the project is to make the study of history--the compilation and interpretation of data, the construction of arguments--more accessible, and the organization of the site will be integral to this goal. Anyone from middle school students through adults will be able to use this site productively. Users will be able to move easily through several layers of information, which will be organized in such a way that an unlimited number of class projects can be drawn from the material. For instance, it will be very easy to move from formal documents such as curriculum reports to much less formal diaries and personal narratives. Instructors could ask their students to begin at either "end" of the evidence. Someone writing on the impact of the Great Depression, for instance, could begin with the detached tone found in official documents tracing the health problems faced by Milwaukee children during this time, with immediate but unreflective newspaper stories, or with more emotional but less comprehensive personal accounts. The ease of movement among such diverse documents and points of view will serve both of the major trends in the historiography of childhood: the study of attitudes toward children and childhood and the study of children's experiences from their points of view.

It is easy to imagine students at almost any educational level creating fascinating projects from the documents they find on this site. Middle school students could be encouraged to compare their own lives to those of children living in the past by studying the decades in which their parents or grandparents lived, by finding links between their games and pastimes and those of earlier generations, or by using the lives of children of other eras as models for writing their own autobiographies. High school students could use the site to look at ways that the great historical events of the last century-and-a-half have affected people their own age, including wars, the rise of public schools, and the growth of government programs aimed at shaping and expanding the lives of children. Children in Urban America will be dedicated to revealing the experiences of city children, but it will also provide documentation for case studies in a number of related topics. The site would aid scholars ranging from sixth graders to college students to professional historians in conducting research for papers, reports, and articles on subjects ranging from welfare reform to health care to education to race relations. In addition to the introductions that will appear at the entrance to every stage of a user's journey through the site, we will provide potential paths of inquiry. Academic users will find possible questions for further study and suggestions for research projects. For non-academic users we will provide tips for "purposeful surfing" within the database. These will include a subject listing; historical scenarios that would draw them into the documents; sample searches by topic, name, and event; and ideas submitted by previous users. (For samples of the kind of questions students and users from each age level might address, as well as suggestions for research strategies, see APPENDIX 3.) Even the bibliographies and links to other web sites will be categorized by age. The "Children and History" section would suggest, for instance, William H. Tuttle, Jr.'s "Daddy's Gone to War": The Second World War in the Lives of America's Children (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993) for adults, but Sylvia Whitman's V Is for Victory: The American Home Front During World War II (New York: Lerner, 1992) for juvenile readers. In the same section, college students and historians interested in the Civil War would be directed to The Valley of the Shadow site, but younger users would be informed of sites like the one produced by a ninth grade history class in Rochester, Minnesota, called simply "Civil War Project".

Learning Skills. As an educational and research-oriented web site, CUAP would, in a sense, be no different than a textbook or other classroom resource. Students accessing the site would learn how to organize material, write coherent papers, and make plausible arguments. In this context, CUAP would be used as a supplement to social studies and American history courses. For example, in Wisconsin, fifth, eighth, and tenth or eleventh graders, who are required to take American history, would be likely users. Two of the most commonly used textbooks for eighth graders indicate at least two ways in which CUAP would fit into the existing U. S. history curriculum. American Adventures focuses on such issues as government policy (such as LBJ's Great Society), cultural diversity (especially race), and technology (television) and offers a number of brief biographies of notable personalities. Yet little is said about the lives of children. The CUAP archive will offer alternative and complementary ways of studying those same topics. The site's emphasis on exploring history through primary documents and images also lends itself to the emphasis of America: The People & The Dream, which highlights the development of critical thinking and "participation" skills that include research and analysis. At Marquette University, U. S. history is a sophomore level course and classes are small enough that professors frequently assign several papers each semester; the site would be a particularly fruitful supplement to the second half of the U. S. survey (1865-present). It would be easy for teachers at any of these three learning levels to connect students to our site in order to examine specific issues like those mentioned above. CUAP would provide an exciting opportunity for students in a traditional U. S. history class to take rather unique glimpses at portions of their nation's history.

But they could also use the site as the backbone of an entire course. Teachers and professors who incorporate historical method as well as the historical record into their classes would find a multitude of exercises on the site. An on-line, "how-to" guide for oral histories--and scores of examples of oral histories--would help students become their own historians. Brief essays on the perils and opportunities of using newspapers and on the uses of material culture and photographs as historical sources will help train users in the critical evaluation of sources. If a middle-school teacher chose to focus on families in his or her social studies class, there could be no better source of fact-based information on the evolution of families than CUAP. If a high school teacher (in history, government, or sociology) wanted to confront such headline-grabbing urban issues as crime, homelessness, and race, his or her students would find a wealth of raw data from which to draw their own conclusions about how those issues came to dominate modern cities. University and college professors in disciplines ranging from history to social work to nursing to political science could base an entire semester of class projects and papers on the information found on CUAP.

Historians have long believed that teaching and research are inextricably linked. Professors who conduct research in primary sources usually try to incorporate that research into their lectures, keeping the classes fresh by showing students how history is "done" and by demonstrating that there are no easy answers to the most pressing historical questions, that the study of history is not simply a matter of memorizing the names of presidents, Supreme Court decisions, or Civil War battles. Indeed, my own research on Civil War-era children inspired me to create a course on childhood in the United States. CUAP will help educators at all levels to make that connection between learning and research.

The process of collecting information for the site will make historians out of hundreds of teachers and students, who will be introduced to the histories of their schools, the organizations in which they participate, and their city. Whether they draw a picture of an important event in Milwaukee's past, write a short history of their Sunday School, or help collect photographs of school events, these children and adolescents will be conducting research in primary sources. Once the web site is completed, that process will not end; each new class of middle and high schoolers and each new student in university history courses will be able to undertake that same scholarly journey.

3. INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT. Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit university dedicated to the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the fostering of personal and professional excellence, the promotion of a life of faith and the development of leadership expressed in service to others. Marquette offers the doctoral degree in 16 areas and the master's degree in 37, through its 15 colleges, schools, and professional programs. The University currently enrolls 10,600 students from 50 states and over 80 countries representing a spectrum of ethnic and religious heritages.

Established in 1881, Marquette University has long prided itself on being an urban university. Inspired by its downtown location, Marquette students and staff continue to forge relationships with the residents of their adopted city through volunteer programs and service learning courses that put them in contact with children in schools, social welfare agencies, and other settings, to the extent that our community service programs and urban commitments have won national attention as one of Mother Jones Magazine's top activist schools. MU Support. The University will provide substantial and significant support to the project. The Institute for Urban Life will provide funds for a research assistant for the academic year 1999-2000 as well as a computer and printer. In addition, it will sponsor the Children in Urban America conference in May 2000, which will attract scholars from the region and the nation to discuss issues pertinent to children in Milwaukee and the United States. The history department has already provided office space and is committed to providing a half-time research assistant throughout the life of the project; as a full-service, PhD granting program, the history department also is the academic home to dozens of graduate students, from which the project will draw most of its researchers.

Marquette also has the technological capability to conduct this project. One example of our abilities was demonstrated in our successful NEH proposal entitled "Distance Learning Strategies for Teaching Ancient and Medieval Languages." Through this project, distance learning technology was used to offer tutorials in seldom-taught ancient and medieval languages. A similarly high level of support will also be available to CUAP. MU's College of Communication's Center for New Media will offer help in a number of ways. In addition to providing the necessary computers, software, and other equipment (a digital camera to photograph toys and other artifacts, for instance), the Center also maintains its own internet server, where the Milwaukee Children's History Project site will be posted while it is under construction (the completed site will be housed on Marquette University's larger site). The Director of the New Media Center will consult and help manage the site. More institutional support will be provided by the School of Education, primarily through its on-line program for graduate students. Over the last several semesters, Dr. Mercedes Fisher and her colleagues have taught a course entitled "Technologies for Instruction, Assessment, and Information Management" as part of a larger Technology Literacy Challenge Fund Grant for the Milwaukee Public Schools. Over three hundred Milwaukee-area middle and high school teachers, each of whom has been designated as a leader for technology education in his or her school, have taken the on-line course. In addition, Dr. Fisher is responsible for teaching the social studies methods course to graduate students here at MU. We will exploit these contacts in three ways: first of all, the teachers who have completed the program will be asked to participate in creating content. They may assign their students to write histories of their schools, help screen information from school yearbooks or newspapers, or help write study guides. Their second contribution will come when we assemble an Educator's Advisory Board; this core of interested educators will help us organize the information, write study questions, and propose class projects. Finally, after we go on-line, all of the teachers involved in the project will be asked to assess its usability and to consider participating in seminars and discussion sessions in their own schools.

Another major source of documents will be the Milwaukee Public Library, where the official records located in the Milwaukee Public Archives and the manuscript sources in the Humanities and Local History Room complement the hundreds of published primary and secondary sources contained in the circulating and reference divisions.

A third repository is the Urban Archives at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. With resources ranging from church records to birth records, from information on Jewish, Catholic, and public schools to the International Socialist Sunday School, and from family manuscript collections to the Works Progress Administration Handicraft Project (including the well-known "doll project"), the Urban Archives will be a vital source of information on Milwaukee's children.

Other public records are available at the Legislative Reference Bureau in City Hall and at the several divisions of the Milwaukee Public Schools. (Copies of letters of commitment from the major repositories can be found after the appendices.)

Timeline. The timeline for work to be completed during the period covered by the grant is included in more detail in APPENDIX 4. However, it should be noted that the project will begin during the 1999-2000 academic year with the hiring of two research assistants, the creation of an office out of which to work, outreach to the larger community (teachers, members of the Milwaukee County Historical Society, and other organizations), the compiling of bibliographies, and the transcribing of newspaper articles and other documents. The academic year will end with the Children in Urban America conference on May 5-6, 2000. As a result, all the ground work will be completed and a good start will be made on collecting and transcribing documents by the time the proposed grant begins. The academic year 2000-2001 will see a greatly enlarged student staff--I envision the summers of 2000, 2001, and 2002 to be particularly productive, as I will be able to recruit assistants from among graduate students otherwise occupied with teaching and regular research assistantships during the school year--and an expansion into additional repositories. Furthermore, by the end of Fall 2000, we expect to have the first segments of the site posted on-line. With funding from the NEH, we have every expectation that we can complete the project and begin outreach efforts (through exhibits, workshops, etc.) by the summer of 2003.

4. PROJECT STAFF AND PARTICIPANTS. The project director will be Dr. James Marten, associate professor of history at Marquette University. Marten teaches courses on children's history, the American Civil War, and African American history. He has published extensively on the Civil War era and on the history of children. Several other scholars have agreed to participate in the project as consultants or by supervising specific segments of the project. Dr. Michael Gordon, associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Director of UWM's Public History Program, has agreed to consult on oral history and on the "Work" section of the project. Dr. Thomas Jablonsky, associate professor and Director of the Institute for Urban Life at Marquette, will be the resident expert in urban history and will also provide the initial funding and host the kick-off conference in May 2000. Dr. Michael Havice, associate professor in the MU College of Communication, will be lead consultant in designing the appearance and user interfaces of the web site. Finally, Dr. Mercedes Fisher, assistant professor of Education at MU, will help devise the project's pedagogical pathways and provide important contacts within the public schools. (Brief vitae for these members of the team are in APPENDIX 5; letters of commitment from the principal participants follow the appendices.)

The project director will supervise all the research and will conduct research in manuscript collections and public records. Paid employees of the project will include research assistants provided by the Institute for Urban Life at Marquette University and by the history department at Marquette University, as well as research assistants drawn from graduate students at both Marquette and UWM provided for under the terms of this grant. The surveying, transcribing, and uploading of the documents and other data will be performed by several different groups of associates drawn from academe, from MPS and other school districts, from local historical societies, and from the general public. The inspiration for seeking the help of a wide-ranging community of workers and volunteers--the decision to move outside the academic community--comes from the assembling of the original Oxford English Dictionary, whose editor, James Murray, relied on the enthusiasm and research of thousands of volunteers, working over several decades, for most of the entries in his path-breaking work. Although we hardly claim the same degree of ambition, we certainly hope to engage members of the community in which we live and work in a similar way.

Volunteers. Volunteers will also be recruited from among the numerous churches, community organizations, and historical societies from which records and documents will be requested. A mass mailing in the fall of 1999 will identify those institutions and organizations who have records that they are willing to share; we hope that some of the work of identifying and putting information on disk will be performed by employees or by member volunteers. Finally, the "Children in Urban America" conference to be held in the spring of 2000 will also provide opportunities for identifying topics, sources and, perhaps, volunteers who will agree to work on certain collections of sources pertinent to their presentations. Papers to be read at the conference will be solicited from scholars at the national level as well as interested members of the Milwaukee County Historical Society and the community at large.

A key partner to the project will be the Milwaukee County Historical Society. Its more than one thousand members will be introduced to the project through the monthly MCHS newsletter and through public talks by project staff members. They will be asked to provide their own memoirs and oral histories of childhood and schooling in Milwaukee County, as well as family records and photographs. They will also be invited to participate as volunteers, transcribing documents from the MCHS archives. Finally, the several school districts located in Milwaukee County--including Milwaukee Public Schools, with 70,000 plus students--will be incorporated into the project in several ways, some of which have already been outlined. From individual schools we will obtain samples of writing and images from school newspapers and yearbooks, children's drawings, and oral histories from teachers and administrators. We will also contact teachers and division heads--in addition to those who have already formed a relationship with the educational technology program at MU--asking them to construct class projects around some element of children's history. For instance, junior and senior-high school students may write short histories of their schools, with school traditions, legends, and other information. Younger students might put together a "virtual time capsule," with pictures and documents reflecting their perceptions of their schools' histories.

The success of this project will depend upon the contributions of a great number of people. The personnel provided by this grant will do the bulk of the methodical work of surveying and transcribing newspapers and public documents, but volunteers, teachers, and other interested parties will provide absolutely vital information and labor. A grant from the NEH will provide the necessary institutional and professional underpinning for the project; the input of volunteers will give the project a spark and offer concrete experiences that will help make it accessible to all age groups and to users with a wide variety of interests and purposes.

5. EVALUATION. Evaluation of the project will proceed in a number of ways, each of which will reflect the multi-use nature of the material. We will monitor the number of accesses to the site as well as the number of accesses to the sections offering study aids to teachers and guides to the general public (see below). In addition to these unavoidably quantitative measures, we will also seek out qualitative evaluations. Members of the Milwaukee County Historical Society will be asked to evaluate the site as it is being built in their roles as educated "amateurs" with a strong interest in Milwaukee history. Alumni of MU's "Technologies in Education" course will provide advice and input--both informally and through a Educators' Advisory Board. Teachers from the metropolitan area's public and private schools who get involved in gathering materials--by themselves, or by encouraging (or assigning) students to participate--will also be relied upon to evaluate the usefulness of the site to their purposes. Professors Marten, Jablonsky, and Gordon will try out the site as a source of material in their undergraduate and graduate courses on children's, urban, and public history. Users' input will be gathered from an easy-to-use survey form attached to the site (users will be able to fill one out and e-mail it directly to the project director). Questions will ask respondents to comment on the effectiveness of the structure of the site, the usefulness of the documents, and the helpfulness of the study guides; they will also be asked to report on the ways they have used the site in their classes or in their research.

Additionally, an Academic Advisory Board consisting of members of the faculty of Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, members of the Milwaukee community, and historians from around the country will provide advice as well as critical evaluations of the project. They have been appointed and have already been asked to comment on drafts of this proposal; they will also be asked to read (or view) and comment on site content and structure, study guides, and organization. (See APPENDIX 6 for a complete list and biographical information of both the Educators' and Academic Advisory Boards. Letters of support from nationally known historians follow the appendices.)

Conclusion. By focusing on children, the site will attract users interested in moving beyond traditional historical narratives. Anecdotal evidence from my own work--including student reaction to my course Childhood in America, the enthusiasm with which students in my American history surveys respond to such books as Nasaw's Children of the City, and the interest shown by audience members when I deliver academic papers or public lectures on children's history--has convinced me that the site will draw a wide range of users. But the emphasis on children's experiences is not simply a "hook" to attract attention. To study children and childhood is to study vital aspects of the history of the United States, for what better way is there to measure the values and assumptions of a culture than by exploring the ways its members seek to prepare the next generation for citizenship and economic responsibility--and how better to measure their success than to give voice to the too-frequently ignored children and youth on the receiving end of those efforts to educate, socialize, and politicize young Americans? "Childhood," argues Joseph M. Hawes, a leading historian of childhood, "is where you can catch a culture in high relief."

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