About This ProjectProject Description
Through a major grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Kansas State Historical Society and the Kansas Collection of the University of Kansas present Territorial Kansas Online, a vivid illustration the time period 1854 through January 1861, when Kansas entered the Union.
During the 1850s, Kansas was the focus of the nation struggling to determine whether or not Kansas Territory would enter the Union as a free or a slave state. The conflict in Kansas was a microcosm of the growing divisions between the South and the North over the expansion of slavery, federalism and nationalism, the beginning industrialization of the North, and changing political coalitions in Congress. Kansas was the battleground for implementing the concept of “popular sovereignty” as outlined in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which created the territory.
Events in Kansas during its territorial period were chaotic and disruptive. Verbal and physical confrontations between pro- and anti-slavery supporters were common. These confrontations were reported in the national press. The image of “Bleeding Kansas” played a major role in the increasing tensions in the nation prior to the Civil War.
The major product of the project is this virtual repository of the best Territorial Kansas collections from the two institutions. Visitors to the site have access to government documents, diaries, letters, photographs, maps, newspapers, rare secondary sources and historical artifacts. The emotions of the times are conveyed in handwritten documents, which, with misspelled words and blotted ink make their creators and the events described tangible to the modern day reader. This project will also incorporate museum artifacts as historical evidence. Artifacts have the power to carry the past into the present because they exist beyond the historical event they are associated with, providing a direct connection to people who lived in the past. Images of historic sites where some of the territorial confrontations occurred will also be included.
The historical materials selected for the project may be used for research papers, History Day projects, and by teachers developing their own lesson plans. The information will be of value to lifelong learners interested in this critical era of U.S. history and to Civil War buffs and re-enactors endeavoring to understand and articulate the motivations of individual soldiers who participated in the Civil War.
The second project product are lesson plans based on selected digitized items developed to enhance the teaching of U. S. history at the middle school, high school, and college levels. The curriculum materials fulfill portions of the Kansas Department of Education’s recently drafted history standards for U.S. and Kansas history and include educational objectives that are applicable to any U.S. history class.