In 2011 The Western New York Library Resources Council received a grant from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program, providing an opportunity to create an online exhibit and companion Teaching Guide. The goal of the project was to develop tools for teachers to engage and educate students, using both local and national historical resources, focusing on this one collection with its unique body of materials. A selection of roughly 200 documents from the over 12,000 in the collection were digitized and added to the New York Heritage Digital Collections. The teaching guide and online exhibit were created with the grant.
The Tourgee Papers document the years from roughly 1862 to 1905, including the time period commonly referred to in American History as Reconstruction (1861-1877). Most documents accessible on many sites, including the Library of Congress, for studying this time are published documents (speeches, pamphlets, newspapers, and so on) often delivered by public figures of the time. Missing are the personal, handwritten reflections of everyday people who lived through this tumultuous time – materials that make up the bulk of the Tourgee collection.
The goal of this exhibit is not only to support the use of primary sources in education, but also to encourage a broader re-examination and subsequent discussion of this critical time in American history, and how the conversations on humanity, justice and equality are still as important today as they were during Tourgee’s lifetime.