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History matters

Explorations in Public History

Flint Hills Discovery CenterFrom Roman aqueducts, the creation of NASA, and the recently renewed diplomatic relations with Cuba, history offers clues into a people's motivations, priorities, and trends. If you've watched a Ken Burns' documentary, encountered historical interpreters, or read any number of historically-sound popular books, then you've encountered the work of Public Historians.

Public History connects academic resources to a wider audience. Public Historians bring history to the public square.

In spring of 2015, Dr. Lynn-Sherow led her Public History class through several collaborative projects exploring Lost Kansas Communities, historic preservation, digital humanities, museum curation, and even Wikipedia.

Pioneer BluffsOne project involved developing a walking tour brochure for the popular Pioneer Bluffs prairie heritage site. Public History students visited the historically significant Pioneer Bluffs/Rogler Ranch, researched its history, and formulated a walking tour that is now available to visitors!

They also explored the lost Kansas community of Comiskey. Patrick Moran discovered "Comiskey had a lot of factors that lead to an (enduring) town, so it was all the more surprising that the town failed. Comiskey had a railroad, livestock, etc., and still (disappeared)." He also discovered the people who care about Comiskey's story. "We are telling the story of ordinary people from an ordinary town. Not many people would stop and think 'hey, this is important'. It's a humbling realization."

Students also had the opportunity to write a Preliminary Site Information Questionnaire (PSIQ) used to determine whether a property is worthy of the extensive research and documentation required to launch a National or Kansas Register of Historic Places application. Trey Heitschmidt chose a home in Manhattan to research and discovered "a little perseverance (goes) a long way." To effectively craft her PSIQ, Trey employed multiple research methods - including multiple visits to the Register of Deeds and a visit to the site.1010 Houston Street, Manhattan

The practice of public history includes writing books and publications, creating documentaries and movies; developing historical interpretation, and any number of modes among the digital humanities available to a wide and diverse audience. Dr. Lynn-Sherow requested her Public History students to identify a Kansas town whose Wikipedia - a popular crowd-sourced free-access online encylopedia - article was sparse. A "Wikipedian" - employed by Wikipedia to maintain content integrity on the site -instructed the class in best practices related to updating the site.

Alex Good chose Kanopolis and was "amazed at how much information exists on Even the tiny town of Kanopolis provided a rabbit hole of information dating back to the 1800's for me to explore." Not only did Alex learn a great deal about Kanopolis, Kansas, (you can read his town update here,,_Kansas), he "learned to not be afraid to jump into something new, even if other people will see. A little time and decent effort...gave me the confidence to learn other practical applications."

If the experiences of these students are common, than Public History changes more than the perception of the wide "public" audience. The process of researching, evaluating, and communicating changes the history scholars engaged in Public History.

 Have you visited our blog,"The Rural Telegraph," featuring original student research or swung by the Chapman Center for Rural Studies on Facebook and Twitter? #MakeHistory and come on by.


We do Biography! 

You'll find biography among place histories in Chapman Center for Rural Studies online archives. Meet soldiers, legislators, healers, baseball players and more here.

Summer 2015 Busy with Research, Digitization, and Exhibit Development
Meet the Chapman Center Summer 2015 Research Team and learn about their projects here

Field Research and the Chapman Center for Rural Studies
Learn how History comes to life and students explore Kansas history. Read more

A Rediscovered Legacy
Thanks to diligent research by Chapman Center Intern, Michael Spachek, the once forgotten history of a substantial group of Wabaunsee County black farm families has been brought to life. . Read more

Adams' Collection Research Honors Family
Jessica Hermesch worked with a donated collection of military records to build a service narrative of George Adams, Sr., World War I soldier. Read more

Chapman Center Presents Alan Winkler with Bruntzel Award
The Chapman Center for Rural Studies is pleased to announce Alan Winkler, retired Wabaunsee County Historical Museum Curator, as the recipient of the 2015 Bruntzel Award. Read more

The Goodland Identity Project
An art student, an agricultural business major, a graduate student in women's studies and public history, and a GIS grad student specialist tackle Goodland, KS. Read more

Undergraduate Research on Display
After an intense semester of research, our interns presented their research findings focusing on the history of African-Americans in rural Kansas. Read more

Six Months of Research Pay Off
MJ Morgan and students presented to an interested audience at the High Plains Museum on October 18. Read more

In Loving Memory of Mark A. Chapman (1943-2014)
We lost a very close member of the K-State family early April 18, 2014. Mark A. Chapman passed away at 71. Read more

The Chapman Center for Rural Studies is an undergraduate research-based center that provides hands-on experience in doing the real work of historians. We are located in 111 Leasure Hall in the heart of the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan, KS.

Office hours: Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Call us at 785-532-0380.

Search through the Chapman Center's on-going project, the Lost Town Digital Archive: Lost Kansas Communities.

For more information, email us or email the director, Professor Bonnie Lynn-Sherow.

Contact Us

111 Leasure Hall
Hours: Monday - Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Phone:  785-532-0380

Chapman Center Resources

Lost Communities

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