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A Year-Long Conversation: World War I - The Legacy

By Bill Balthrop
IAH Associate Director, Chairs Leadership Program

The University of North Carolina is hosting a year-long conversation during the academic year 2014-2015 on the legacy of World War I.  Sponsored by the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, the College of Arts of Sciences, and in collaboration with King’s College London, this conversation will involve members of the University community and beyond.

Despite a general lack of awareness in the United States, World War I exerted enormous influence upon domestic and foreign policy.  The War literally reshaped international trade, military science, gender and work roles, and the creation and endurance of nation states.  Additionally, the War generated new perspectives on international law, race relations in the United States and abroad, medical and scientific advances, literature, art, theater, music, and commemoration practice just to mention a few examples.  This project seeks to increase awareness about the War and its aftermath among faculty, students, and the community beyond the University and to stimulate interest in the war throughout the remainder of the centennial period.

While planning continues, several commitments already indicate a broad-ranging conversation.  Examples include the following:

  • Two conferences, hosted by the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, the College of Arts and Sciences, and King’s College London.  One will be held in London, the other on the UNC-CH campus.  Topics in development include one conference devoted to memory and commemoration, the other on conduct of the War.
  • Workshops and lectures on “Gender, War and Empire in a Global Perspective,” sponsored by the Duke-UNC Gender, War and Culture Series; the Research Triangle Seminar Series on the History of Military, War and Society; and the North Carolina German Studies Seminar and Workshop Series (NCGS Series).
  • A series of dramatic performances concerning World War I, both from the period and after, sponsored by the Department of Dramatic Art and the Playmakers Repertory Company.  Also a series of newly commissioned dramatic performances relating to the War sponsored by the Process Series.
  • Musical and dance performances relating to the theme occurring throughout the year by the Carolina Performing Arts program.
  • Workshops for K-12 teachers on developing teaching modules about the War with online participation by teachers throughout the state of North Carolina.  Sponsored by NC Learn, the School of Education, and the Transatlantic Teacher Scholars Program (a collaboration of teachers and scholars from the U.S., Great Britain and the National Archives in London).
  • An exhibition and educational program about the legacy of Victory Gardens and the emergence of the community food movement, sponsored by the School of Public Health, the NC Botanical Garden, the Community Garden of Chapel Hill, and the UNC Employee Forum.
  • A series of weekend seminars addressing various aspects of the War—ranging from conduct of the war, international relations, and the Home Front—for members of the public sponsored by the Program in the Humanities.
  • Exhibitions throughout the year at several venues including the Ackland Museum of Art and the UNC Libraries.  
  • Indexing of the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, for the period 1916-1919 by UNC Libraries.  This will result in exhibitions and serve as a resource for faculty and students.
  • A series of public lectures throughout the year by invited speakers (sponsored by individual faculty members and departments in the College of Arts and Sciences).  
  • Commitments have been received for more than twenty courses to be offered across departments in the College during the academic year.  Courses will be taught by faculty in Communication Studies, Dramatic Art, English, German, Global Studies, History, Political Science, Public Policy, and others. 

Discussions with other groups and individuals across the UNC campus indicate that even more activities will develop over the next several months.  

Those of us involved in the planning of this project are enthusiastic about the response we have received from across the University and about additional possibilities that may emerge.  We are, of course, also interested in learning about activities planned by other institutions and organizations and in receiving suggestions about additional innovative ideas that would enhance our own conversation.

For additional information, please contact:

Bill Balthrop
Professor, Department of Communication Studies
Associate Director and Fellow, The Institute for the Arts and Humanities
email:  vwb@email.unc.edu 

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