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K-State Today

June 3, 2022

Chapman Center supports project on uncovering lost stories of Kansas

Submitted by Laura Perez

The Chapman Center for Rural Studies, a Center of Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, has selected Traci Brimhall, professor of English, and Heather McCrea, associate professor of history, for summer research funding as part of the center's mission to foster interdisciplinary engagement and student research opportunities.

McCrea and Brimhall's project, "Unsolved Histories: Uncovering the Lost Stories of Kansas’s Mental Health Institutions," will bring life to the stories of women who were hospitalized at the State Mental Hospital in Winfield, Kansas. In partnership with the Cowley County Historical Society, the research team will create interactive experiences and digital exhibits to shed light on these forgotten stories and create community dialogues around mental health and the history of medicine. 

"I am excited to work with the Chapman Center on our collaborative project because I have always believed in the power of stories to change people," Brimhall said. "By bringing the past into dialogue with the present, I hope to highlight the changed perceptions and treatments for mental health and to help people engage with their town's lost histories."

The project supports two student interns who will assist with archival research and digitization. These students will work with McCrea and Brimhall, as well as staff at the Cowley County Historical Society, to produce an interactive exhibit about the history of mental health treatment in Kansas and the women who lived these experiences.

"This project aligns with K-State's renewed commitment to engagement, bringing K-State innovation together with community expertise to improve Kansas communities," said Mary Kohn, director of the Chapman Center. "Many smaller historical societies suffer from a lack of staffing, funding and equipment. Projects like 'Uncovering Lost Stories of Kansas' not only provide students with opportunities to work with primary archival resources, but simultaneously assist these institutions in digitizing materials and raising awareness of their valuable collections."

This funding opportunity was made possible through generous support from the College of Arts and Sciences and the history department. Contributions will support travel, supplies and equipment to facilitate collaboration and engagement with the Cowley County Historical Society. 

Follow the Chapman Center's social media for updates about the project. To learn more about funding opportunities with the Chapman Center, visit the Interdisciplinary Research Grant website.