Over There: Missouri & the Great War is a statewide, collaborative digitization initiative to document Missouri’s World War I history. The Springfield-Greene County Library District, the Missouri History Museum, the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and the State Historical Society of Missouri serve as the project’s advisory committee guiding its direction. Missouri Over There set out to enhance the understanding of Missouri’s role in World War I both at home and abroad by expanding access to historical collections for students, scholars, and lifelong learners. This was the first statewide digitization project for the war’s centennial and stands as a model for others to follow.
The project partners created www.missourioverthere.org as a single digital archive unifying Missouri’s World War I resources. The Springfield-Greene County Library District served as the fiscal agent and lead institution for the project. In this capacity, the Library District reached collaborative agreements with 32 additional organizations and individuals across Missouri, incorporating their World War I collections into the project. The project provided staff to digitize the collections; thus allowing institutions without digitization experience, equipment, or staffing to participate in this project at no cost to them.
Project staff have digitized 225 World War I collections, totaling nearly 22,000 pages of primary source material for the project. Currently, 51 collections are available through the website with the remainder to be uploaded shortly. The website features several scholarly essays written by leading experts in World War I history; such as, Michael Neiberg of the U.S. Army War College, Nicholas Murray of the U.S. Naval War College, and Jennifer Keene of Chapman University. The essays cover the complex history of the First World War through the perspective of Missouri and its citizens. These scholarly essays offer a framework of understanding of the war and context for the historical collections. Project partners also developed a virtual service database compiling government and personal records for the 156,000 Missouri men and women who served in the war. The database combines photographs, obituaries, biographical sketches, and military records. The service database facilitates individuals to contribute their privately held records to the database, allowing families to share their ancestor’s World War I history.
Partners and staff work diligently to promote Missouri’s World War I history and the project to the target audience. Staff attended and presented at many regional, state, and national history conferences to share the project with the scholarly community. Staff developed lesson plans targeting middle and high school-aged students utilizing the digitized primary source documents and meeting state and national educational standards. Staff then offered workshops to teachers on how to incorporate these lesson plans and collections in the classroom. Project partners offered public programing on Missouri’s World War I history throughout the state, including a statewide tour featuring Chris Capozzola, associate professor of history at MIT. Project staff developed a blog and utilized social media to increase awareness of World War I history, Missouri’s role in the war, and the project.