The Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict, 1854-1865 website combines original scholarship from historians with a repository of more than 6,000 pages of primary sources. The project is the result of a collaborative effort headed by the Kansas City Public Library. The project emerged as a part of the Library’s public history initiative relating to the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. With the addition of this website, the Library aims to facilitate conversation, understanding, and analysis among students, educators, historians, local residents, and Civil War enthusiasts.
Drawing on their tradition of strong relationships with schools and universities, other area libraries, and leading cultural institutions, the Library launched its effort to make thousands of primary sources from twenty-five archives accessible online. The project has aimed to become an essential resource in the public’s understanding of regional history as well as facilitate collaboration among regional historical organizations. By uncovering new connections, stories, and resources related to the border war, the website also makes professional historians’ latest discoveries and interpretations available to the general public in hopes to encourage deeper research on the topic.
“The Relationship Viewer” is a feature of the website that allows visitors to see a graphical representation of the connections among people, places, groups, and events that are established by documents in the digital collection. This interactive web of relationships allows users to browse the collection by seeing how people were acquainted, where they lived and fought, their political or military affiliations, and what they accomplished. By further clicking on the relationship graphic, users can view the documents that establish the relationships in the web aiding in public understanding of how primary sources are used in historical research.
Prior to the Civil War on the Western Border website, accessing the documents would have required a trip to 25 archives spread across the Missouri-Kansas border and sifting through vast collections. The majority of the documents in the repository had never before been digitized, and they were carefully selected based on the criteria of historical significance and issues relating to preservation. This digitization has allowed public access to primary sources including documents never before viewed by the public.