Course Reflection

From the beginning this course wasn’t exactly what I had been expecting, but the ways in which it was not have been ways that I feel have allowed for my own growth as a student. I came in thinking the bulk of my work over the course of the semester would be my research, but ultimately the research was only one component of a much larger project. Even with the research I set out to do, I ran into multiple difficulties that I was forced to deal with. Doing so has allowed me to learn both new skills and perfect some of those I already had.

When this semester began, I was looking forward to getting to do some kind of original research. Whether in physical archives with manuscripts or via the Internet, I was excited to zero in on something that hadn’t received much attention in the past. Kayla and I did find a subject that I think has been largely neglected, that of the Eastern Band Cherokee and voting rights. The larger story of Native American citizenship and voting rights is more widely known and studied, but from the standpoint of a “public facing” project also felt like it could use some attention. I feel proud of the work Kayla and I were able to do in making a website to highlight these subjects. I don’t know if anybody will ever read them, but at least we put something together that I feel provides some positive value.

In terms of original research, I ended up doing less than I had originally hoped. If minutes from American Legion meetings or the meetings of local election officials in Jackson and Swain Counties exist, I wasn’t able to find them. We were warned away from conducting interviews pretty early on because of the sensitive nature of conducting interviews with EBCI, so that was ruled out.

I did locate what are probably records of the FBI investigation into the American Legion franchise committee’s complaints in 1946, but the requirement to fill out a FOIA request and the time constraints of the course ruled out any further progress in that area. Given the uncertain nature of that investigation’s influence on subsequent events, that might not have been a huge loss. Still, part of me is always going to wonder what information is sitting up there in the National Archives.

If pressure was applied from state legislators on the county election officials, I assume it was “back channel,” and no real records exist. There are signs of what may have happened here, but hard evidence and specific documents were lacking. Thankfully, John Finger’s book on the EBCI contained first hand accounts obtained from interviews by Finger himself of these events. That was as close as we were going to get.

Ultimately, the limited nature of resources for the 1946 resolution of the conflict forced us to broaden the project to cover a more general conflict to provide context, that of Native American citizenship. The research required for this forced me to consider how my specific, local topic fit into a broader conflict. One of my weaknesses as a student in the past, I think, has been when trying to position research I’ve done as part of a larger question. I was forced to exercise that particular muscle for our project, which I feel has been incredibly beneficial.

More generally, the focus of the course on conflict resolution did feel novel and interesting. As a history major I spend a lot of time looking into conflict. A whole lot of time. Trying to focus in on a conflict that was successfully resolved, and trying to think about why it had been resolved, was both interesting and rewarding.

A more mundane skill I worked on for this course was that of planning and executing a long-term project. I had some trouble with Milestone 2, which I won’t make any excuses for, but at least that helped drive home how important it is to make sure nothing is disregarded over the course of a project. I wound up getting sucked into the research so much that I at first neglected the other aspects of the project. If I could do the whole thing over, I would try to wrap up the research much sooner.

This project also forced me to consider my audience more than I ever have before. Especially once work on the website began, it became necessary to constantly take into account the fact that this project is meant for a general audience. Especially since I hope to try my hand at grad school for history, the ability to effectively communicate the facts and findings of a project is critical. I am very glad I got this experience at it.

This is also the first time I worked on a large project in coordination with another student. Thankfully Kayla was a breeze to work with, and we were able to break down our respective areas of the project without any trouble. We both work and go to school full time, so coordinating our schedules did become difficult once or twice, but I don’t think it negatively impacted our final product.

Finally, this is the most work I’ve ever done to create an online version of a research project specifically designed for the public. I feel like I have a decent grasp on WordPress, and am interested in making use of it in the future. I wish I had taken care of research sooner and could have played around with the website a little more, but maybe I’ll go back and put in a few improvements here and there. I am very glad I took a course that forced me to shape a research project for something like a website. I hope it isn’t the last time I get the opportunity.

All in all, this has been a fascinating course. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to take part, and very disappointed at the thought that this may be the final COPLAC digital course ever. I hope it isn’t. This course felt fresher and less rote than a lot of other courses might have. Sorry if I rambled a bit in the middle here, this reflection has been useful on its own as a way to kind of unpack the last few months.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *