CHARM

CHARM

Consortium for the History of Agricultural and Rural Mississippi

Ongoing Projects

Oral Histories

A major component of the CHARM project is the recording of oral histories from individuals who played key roles or can recall significant aspects of Mississippi's agricultural and rural past. Interviewers are identifying, recording, and transcribing these oral histories to provide access to the memories of people whose perspectives, insights, and experiences would not otherwise be saved.

Thus far, several interviews with pertinent agricultural and forestry faculty, staff, and administrators have been conducted. Among those already interviewed are Lyle Nelson, Rodney Foil, Ron Brown, Emmett A. Kimbrough, William Bost, Joe Cardwell, and Verner Hurt. The list of potential interviewees continues to grow and soon the oral history project will expand to include community leaders, extension workers, and others throughout the state involved in agriculture and forestry. For more information or potential interviews, please contact Ryan Semmes at rsemmes@library.msstate.edu.

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Echoes of Lloyd-Ricks-Watson

Mississippi State University's Lloyd-Ricks-Watson Building, built in 1929 to house agricultural programs, is home to the School of Human Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The "Echoes of Lloyd-Ricks-Watson" project seeks to interview as many of the former occupants or those with relationships to the Lloyd-Ricks-Watson building as possible and to record their stories concerning their experiences and the personalities that occupied the building from its original opening in 1929 through its current remodeling and renaming on October 23, 2010.

Learn more about the project at http://library.msstate.edu/echoes.

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AgNIC

The importance of CHARM has been recognized by the Agricultural Network Information Center (AgNIC). AgNIC is a partnership of over 50 institutions providing online access to high quality agricultural-related digital collections that are of interest to a national and international audience. Since 2005, CHARM has been MSU's contribution to the organization, and, in an effort to expand the CHARM project, MSU has coordinated a regional initiative to preserve the agricultural and rural life of the South. MSU also hosted the 2007 AgNIC Conference in May 2007.

For more information on AgNIC, including links to other partner projects, visit the AgNIC website at http://www.agnic.org/.

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Community History Project

Rural communities are an important part of Mississippi's heritage. Preserving the heritage of Mississippi's lost or still extant communities is inherent in CHARM's mission to document Mississippi agricultural and rural life. This mission is being carried out through providing greater access to materials already collected, as well as through more proactive projects. One of CHARM's ongoing projects is to identify community organizations and to encourage members to collect materials documenting their organizational and community history. The first CHARM project of this type was carried out with the Oktoc Community Club.

The Oktoc Community, located in rural Oktibbeha County, was first populated by pioneers arriving in the early 1830s, to settle lands formerly owned by Choctaw Indians and opened to settlement after the Native Americans gave up their lands. The early settlement in this area was known as Choctaw Agency. This community of farmers originally grew agricultural crops, but by the late 19th century, dairy farming was brought into Oktibbeha County and became common in Oktoc also. Descendants of some of these early pioneers, including plantation and farm owners, slaves and tenant farm workers, still live in the area, along with those descended from land owners who came later, and relative newcomers. Large dairy farms still dot the Oktoc countryside. Historic sites in the community include the site of the second Mississippi Choctaw Agency, remnants of the old Robinson Road, the site of the Folsom Inn and Old Salem Church, and historic homes such as Meadow Woods and The Cedars. The old Vernon Church and school building is now in use as Oktoc Community Club building. Close by is Gentry's store, a visual reminder of the importance of the country store in rural community life. The Oktoc community is changing: new subdivisions such as Browning Creek mix with new individual homes and barns. The Oktoc Community Club meets monthly for an informative program potluck. Its annual fund raising sale and Brunswick stew cooking event attract crowds from the surrounding area. The Oktoc Water Association and the Volunteer Fire Department are other community organizations that continue to make Oktoc a strong community.

In 2005, CHARM, working with Oktoc Community Club members, invited residents of the Oktoc community to a Homecoming event. This event was held in the John Grisham Room and featured an exhibit of photographs of the Oktoc Community loaned for copying by Oktoc Community residents Fred and Marjorie Blocker. Attendees were informed about the materials documenting Oktoc that are already in the CHARM collection and encouraged to preserve Oktoc's history by continuing to collect historical and current materials. To date, the Oktoc Community Club has deposited copies of its yearbooks in the CHARM collection and Fred Blocker has loaned for copying his collection of materials concerning the Oktoc Community. In the near future records concerning the Oktoc Community 4-H Club and other family records will be donated to the CHARM project.

For additional information concerning donating materials documenting Oktoc and other Mississippi communities, contact Frances Coleman, Dean of Libraries and Coordinator, Special Collections Department; (662) 325-7661; fcoleman@library.msstate.edu.

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Digitization Project

Since the inception of CHARM, one goal has been to digitize and provide access to the primary source materials contained in the CHARM collections to facilitate their use in theses, dissertations, articles, monographs, statistical studies, documentaries and other value-added products. Furthermore, digitization and online access to these primary source materials will foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the role of agriculture and rural life in shaping the history and future of Mississippi and the nation. To facilitate this goal, the Library and the Division of Agriculture provided funding to hire a part-time staff member and student assistants to assist in organizing and digitizing the materials found in the CHARM collections. Through a grant provided by the United States Small Business Administration in 2006, the Libraries increased the number of staff devoted to digitizing materials in the CHARM collections and the Congressional and Political Research Center that relate to agriculture and rural life. The grant resulted in hiring four full-time staff members and two FTE students for one year to work on the digitization of these collections. Additionally, the grant provided funding to acquire OCLC's CONTENTdm, a digital media archive, to house and provide access to these resources. This grant will further enhance the depth of the digital, online collections and will greatly improve the quality of the project's online presence.

The digitization project adheres to strict conservation and preservation standards to ensure the integrity of these often rare and fragile documents. High-quality, digital representations (TIFF images) of the resources are created and archived for future use. The TIFF images are used to create web display versions (JPG/PDF) and added to the CONTENTdm server. Metadata added to each piece facilitates searching for materials within the collection. Researchers will be able to search the collections by image type, description, name, subject headings, time period and other descriptors.

To see the digitized items, visit the CHARM Digital Collections.

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4-H Museum and Archives

As a part of its mission to document the educational and extension activities of Mississippi State University as a land grant institution, CHARM in 2004 became a partner in the 4-H Archives and Museum project, a project of the Mississippi 4-H Foundation. This project focuses on collecting and exhibiting materials documenting 100+ years of 4-H activities in Mississippi.

The Pete Frierson Mississippi 4-H Museum, located on the grounds of the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson, was dedicated in late 2004. The 2,000 square foot facility named for 4-H alumnus and supporter Pete Frierson houses interpretive and interactive exhibits celebrating the role of 4-H as a youth development program and introducing visitors to today's 4-H programs. The Museum was recently renovated and the newly renovated, completed facility with 3 working galleries and 10 subject focused exhibit areas ranging from history to interactive to hands-on was unveiled at the open house during the 4-H Celebration on October 29, 2011 at the Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson, Mississippi.

Collection of items for the 4-H Archives is being coordinated through Mississippi State University Library. Prior to the establishment of the 4-H Archives, the University Archives Division of the Library’s Special Collections Department already contained a significant collection of photographs, Extension records and other materials that chronicle the history of 4-H. In addition, several collections donated to the CHARM project contain photographs and other materials related to 4-H club activities. These collections and items donated to the 4-H Archives since 2004 will be used to create the exhibits housed at the 4-H Museum.

In addition, as a part of CHARM’s digitization project, many 4-H items will be scanned or photographed, and the resulting images will be stored in the CHARM digital collection database, along with descriptive metadata for each item. This CONTENTdm powered database will facilitate searching historical 4-H materials by personal name, geographic location, topical subject headings and other descriptors. Researchers will be able to search the 4-H Archive separately, or to search all CHARM collections for 4-H content.

What types of materials are needed for the 4-H Archives and Musuem? Virtually anything that tells something of Mississippi 4-H history:

  • Photos (with names and places, if possible)
  • Record books are especially desired
  • News clippings
  • Diaries, letters, notes, cards 4-H paraphernalia
  • Pins, trinkets, banners, flags, 4-H signs
  • Trophies and award prizes, especially if they represent key event awards, such as a trophy given at the very first state 4-H beef show, items such as electric appliances, silver trays, plaques
  • Uniforms or official 4-H clothing items
  • Items used with a 4-H project, such as halters, cooking items, gavels, sewing equipment, clothes
  • Ribbons must be marked as to their purpose, with winners name, and should represent a major event
  • Entire collections
  • Collections or items from notable individuals, such as political leaders, entertainers, writers, artists
  • Items that reference key historical events, such as State or National Congress events, consolidation of boys and girls clubs, early desegregation, wartimes

To donate items to the 4-H Archives, contact Ryan Semmes at (662) 325-7680, rsemmes@library.msstate.edu or your county Extension office.

For additional information concerning the 4-H Museum, contact Morris Houston, (662) 829-3611, mhouston@ext.msstate.edu.

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Quilt Symposium

In cooperation with the School of Human Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Mississippi State University Extension Service, in March of 2005 CHARM co-sponsored the first Quilt Symposium. Entitled "Quilts: A Social and Cultural History of Rural Mississippi", the symposium's purpose was to promote an understanding of quilts as important artifacts of social history. Specifically, the symposium focused on the history of Mississippi quilts and quilt research as links to rural and agricultural families and communities in Mississippi. Additional funding for the symposium was provided through a mini-grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Dr. Wanda Cheek, MSU Associate Professor of Human Sciences and Curator of the Historic Costume Collection organized and served as coordinator for the Quilt Symposium. Speakers for the event included Mary Elizabeth Johnson, author of Mississippi Quilts; Carol Vickers, Chairman of the Mississippi Heritage Quilt Search Project; and Martha Ginn and Ollie Jean Lane, trained quilters and juried show participants. Participants brought heirloom quilts for identification and for show-and-tell during the symposium.

More than 100 attendees from the region enjoyed lectures and visual presentations on history of Southern quilts with emphases on dating, socioeconomic conditions that influenced quilting traditions, an introduction to patterns and print identification, and proper methods for care, conservation, and preservation of quilts. Information forms and photographs for each quilt displayed were collected at the Saturday show-and-tell and identification sessions by Dr. Wanda Cheek and Human Sciences students. A highlight of the event was an exhibit from the quilt collection of Margaret Bateman, MSU Associate Professor of Design.

The Quilt Symposium was judged a resounding success as an educational event and in terms of preserving and disseminating information about Mississippi quilts. Many attendees expressed the wish for the Quilt Symposium to be an annual event.

For additional information about the Quilt Symposium and the quilt information collected, contact Dr. Wanda Cheek, (662) 325-7696; wcheek@humansci.msstate.edu.

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