31 March 2011 by Published in: General News No comments yet

The House Divided ProjectI am a proud member of the Dickinson College Class of 1983. My friend and mentor Brian Pohanka was also an alum of Dickinson (Class of 1977), and his family endowed a chair in his honor when it became obvious that his cancer was terminal. Prof. Matthew Pinsker, who is the chairman of the College’s history department, holds the Brian C. Pohanka Faculty Chair in American Civil War History, and for five years, he and Prof. John Osborn (who was actively teaching when I was a student at the College many moons ago) have been working out the details of a large project called the House Divided Project.

Having ironed out the bugs, the project–which seeks to provide a new approach to teaching school children about Eighteenth Century history by using the College as a window on events–is now being formally launched just in time for the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. I received the following press release from Matt earlier today, and I am proud to announce the launch of the project on his behalf here on the blog:


Matthew Pinsker

717-333-1515 or pinsker@msn.com

Dickinson College Launches House Divided Project to Honor Civil War Anniversary

Dickinson College will host a series of events at the outset of the Civil War 150th anniversary (April 15 and 16) to formally launch the House Divided Project, an innovative effort to provide 21st century tools for teaching 19th-century topics in America’s K-12 classrooms. The free events begin with a documentary film festival at the Carlisle Theatre on Friday, April 15. On Saturday, April 16, there will be a teacher development workshop, the nation’s first “augmented reality” tour of Underground Railroad and Civil War sites from the newly opened Old Courthouse in Carlisle, and a keynote address on Civil War memory by noted historian David Blight in the evening. All events are free and most are open to the public; some require online registration.

Faculty, staff and undergraduate students at Dickinson have been building and testing the House Divided Project for the last five years, creating nearly two dozen Web sites offering public domain historical content and free digital tools on a variety of subjects from the period 1840 to 1880. House Divided uses Dickinson College as a window and a starting point for a unique focus on the Civil War Era. The college was one of the few institutions of higher education in the country with a student body that was half-northern and half-southern. Two of its graduates also were two of the most powerful men in the country – President James Buchanan, class of 1809 (1857-1861) and Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, class of 1795 (1835-1864).

At the center of the House Divided Project is a powerful database dubbed the “research engine,” which includes more than 10,000 historic images and hundreds of thousands of individual records connected together in an easy-to-use interface designed to help teach the difference between “search” and “research” (http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites for more details). America’s Civil War magazine dubbed the House Divided research engine, “one of the most compelling sesquicentennial online projects.”

· Friday, April 15, 7 p.m. Free. Documentary Film Festival features dramatic stories about Civil War Carlisle, including the tale of an entire regiment of local soldiers captured and imprisoned at the infamous Andersonville prison camp. The films will be shown in the Carlisle Theater at 44 W. High St. and will also feature a live musical performance of period songs by Dickinson students and faculty.

· Saturday, April 16, 9 a.m. Project Director Matthew Pinsker will lead a teacher workshop focusing on how to use the latest technology for K-12 lessons on the Civil War. Open to K-12 educators and home schooling parents. Advance registration required at: http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/launch . Email hdivided@dickinson.edu or call 717-245-1525 with questions.

· Saturday, April 16, 1 p.m – 3 p.m. Faculty and students from House Divided will unveil the nation’s first “augmented reality” tour of Underground Railroad and Civil War sites using the latest tools in smart phone/computer tablet technology. The tours will begin from the newly opened Old Courthouse in downtown Carlisle, recently recognized by the National Park Service as one of the nation’s premier Underground Railroad sites in the National Network to Freedom. Online reservations encouraged at http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/launch.

· Saturday, April 16, 7 p.m., Anita Tuvin Schlecter (ATS) Auditorium, Yale University historian and author of “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory” (2001), David Blight will explore the meaning of the conflict at the beginning of its 150th anniversary in a keynote address entitled: “American Oracle: The Memory of the Civil War.” Book signing to follow. This event is co-sponsored by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and the history department. For more information on the House Divided Project, please email hdivided@dickinson.edu or call 717-245-1525.

John Osborne and Matthew Pinsker are co-directors of the House Divided Project. Osborne is an emeritus professor of history from Dickinson College. Pinsker is an associate professor of history and holder of The Brian C. Pohanka ’77 Faculty Chair in American Civil War History at Dickinson and author of Lincoln’s Sanctuary (Oxford, 2003).

For more information on the House Divided Project and the launch weekend events, please call Matthew Pinsker at 717-333-1515 or email pinsker@msn.com.

This is a great thing for my alma mater, and will also hopefully provide good tools for teaching the Civil War to school children. Kudos to Matt and Professor Osborn for their work. Please check out The House Divided Project.

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