May 1, 2010
The idea for this project came to me during a trip to Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royal National Park in 2002, and drew inspiration from a lifetime in the watershed of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. From post-industrial Detroit, to the portage trails of northern Ontario, to the streets of Chicago and the prairies of central Illinois, the landscapes of central North America have shaped my experience and my outlook on history.
It is no exaggeration to say that nearly everyone at the Newberry Library helped make the idea behind Frontier to Heartland a reality. Librarians and archivists revealed the secrets of the Library’s collections, pages retrieved the books, maps, and manuscripts, conservators repaired and cared for the fragile remnants of the past, photo-duplication staff made it all digital, and catalogers labored to describe every image. I especially want to thank John Aubrey, Martha Briggs, Bob Karrow, and JoEllen Dickie. Other co-workers at the Newberry helped with the research and the administrative wrangling necessary for a project of this scope, especially Jennifer Koslow, who helped to craft the original proposal, and Aaron Shapiro who directed the research that informed the site. Ginger Shulick helped to keep the office running smoothly, and combed through the collections in search of good images. Jim Grossman, Jim Akerman, Brian Hosmer, Carla Zecher, and Carolyn Podruchny shared their expertise and ideas, and never failed to answer my emails. Doug Knox was at first an informal advisor, and became the Project Director when I left the Newberry. It is no exaggeration to say that the project could not have been completed without him.
A group of teachers and history educators at the Chicago Metro History Education Center and the Newberry Library Division of Research and Education evaluated the project as it developed, and contributed ideas for how the material might be used in classroom settings. I especially want to thank Lisa Oppenheim, Crystal Johnson, and Rachel Rooney. Most of these curricular materials could not be included in the final project, but the feedback provided by our teacher advisors helped us refine the website in a way we hope will be useful to teachers and students.
A number of colleagues beyond the Newberry contributed to this project in their own ways. Richard White’s generously allowed us to adapt the text of his 1994 Newberry Library exhibit The Frontier in American Culture and article on Turner and Cody for one of the Perspective essays. I also want to thank Peter Alter from the Chicago History Museum, and his colleagues who assisted with the 2004 exhibit “Outspoken: Chicago’s Free Speech Tradition.” Carl Smith and Kathleen Conzen provided invaluable advice in the early stages of the project. Jan Reiff served as a sounding board for ideas from an early stage, and more recently has been a wonderful colleague at UCLA. Nora Faires from Western Michigan University also offered support and insights from her own research on the U.S.-Canadian borderlands. Colleagues at the University of Illinois have long supported the concept of this project and provided valuable feedback and moral support, especially Jim Barrett and Vernon Burton who, through the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (I-CHASS), also facilitated the hosting of the site. In earlier phases of the project, Frank Colson and Jean Colson of Mackenzie Ward Publishing in Canada and Martyn Farrows in the United Kingdom helped with the effort to fit the project’s concept to an online format. Although our designer Sandor Weisz from Methodtree, Inc. joined the project late, he quickly grasped the look and feel we hoped for and created an elegant and easy-to-use site. Finally, I want to thank the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University for creating the open source web publishing software Omeka, the platform upon which this site rests.
Last but not least are the funders, without whom none of this would be possible. Frontier to Heartland was funded by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding came from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. This project and the other ongoing projects of the Newberry Library’s Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture are supported by the Dr. Scholl Foundation. I offer my sincere thanks to these agencies and their staff members who assisted bring this project to fruition.
Los Angeles, CA
About the Curator
Tobias Higbie is an Associate Professor in the History Department at the University of California Los Angeles. From 2000-2005 he was the director of the Newberry Library’s Dr. William M. Scholl Center for Family and Community History. While at the Newberry he co-curated (with Peter Alter) the exhibit “Outspoken: Chicago’s Free Speech Tradition” and directed the first phases of Frontier to Heartland. Higbie is also the author of the prize-winning book “Indispensable Outcasts: Hobo Workers and Community in the American Midwest, 1880-1930” (University of Illinois Press, 2003). A Michigander by birth, he periodically blogs at “Bughouse Square” and “Global Heartland”.