CHARLES TOWN – Though the Civil is 150 years behind us, fresh details about the conflict are emerging every day thanks to new technologies, explains an expert from Charles Town’s online American Public University System.
“New tools are changing the way we research the Civil War,” said Brad Wiles, APUS’s archivist. “Every day, we’re seeing new arguments, new debates, in many cases, a new understanding of just what happened all those years ago.”
Saturday, APUS will host its second-annual history colloquium, a free exchange that’s open to scholars, educators and researchers as well as those with a more casual interest in the War Between the States.
“Civil War Studies and the Digital (R)Evolution” takes place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the APUS finance center at 393 N. George St.
As more libraries, schools and other institutions make official records and other primary source materials on the war available on their websites, researchers the world over have access to a vast array of new insights, Wiles said.
“With video content and graphics, researchers now also have new ways of analyzing the information that’s out there,” he said. “With access to soldiers’ diaries, memories they recorded after the fact, regiment records and other vital statistics, researchers can start to fill in blanks and get a street-level view of what happened during the Civil War rather than just knowing about the big-picture battles and events.”
Speakers lined up for Saturday include Donald R. Shaffer, who earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2000 and now works as an arts and humanities instructor at APUS from his Arizona home.
His books include “After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans,” published in 2004, and, with Elizabeth Regosin, the 2008 work, “Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files.”
Shaffer will deliver the day’s keynote address, entitled “There’s an App for That: Adventures in Using Technology to Teach and Research the American Civil War.”
Jefferson County residents Jim Surkamp, creator of CivilWarScholars.com, and Civil War-era novelist and historian Bob O’Connor also are set to speak.
Last year’s colloquium focused on the Panhandle’s Civil War history, Wiles said, and drew an enthusiastic and informed audience. “There’s such an interest in the Civil War here because so many important historical incidents happened in the Eastern Panhandle or nearby,” he said. “We wanted to build on that.”
The idea with this year’s gathering, he said, is to help researchers find out how to use all the latest technology to complete more research, work that once would have been possible only by traveling throughout the country.
APUS, begun in 1991, has more than 100,000 students and offers 87 online degree programs, including a history program and a Civil War studies specialization.
More details are available online at apus.edu. Those planning to attend Saturday are asked to pre-register with Wiles at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 304-724-2670.