Civil War Curiosity Cabinet


In Megan Kate Nelson's course on the American Civil War, students complete a final class project and paper that involves primary document research and public history activities to present history through objects and documents. 

As a class, the students work to create a "Curiosity Cabinet" of objects and texts produced during the Civil War. They decide together what form the cabinet will take. Each student is responsible for one "shelf" of 5 items that convey the significance of a specific theme (of their choice) in the cultural history of the Civil War. As part of this project, each student writes the following:

1) A project proposal (3-4 pages) in which he or she suggests a theme and 5 items for the shelf. Each student presents the proposal to the class during a Cabinet Planning Session

2) 5-7 descriptive "labels" (5-7 pages, 250 words per label) for each item with historical notes regarding the production of the item and an argument regarding its significance, and a list of Suggestions for Further Reading.

3) A final 8-10 page paper analyzing both the items in the shelf and their place in the class Cabinet, in addition to arguments about the role of the Cabinet as a whole in shaping memory of the Civil War. The students must use at least five secondary sources to help provide context and support for their arguments.