Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture | Newberry

Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture

Portrait of Floyd Dell 1887-1969, B.J.O. Nordfeldt, undated, oil on fabric

Portrait of Floyd Dell 1887-1969, B.J.O. Nordfeldt, undated, oil on fabric, Art Collection, Newberry Library. NL003

From 1971 until 2017, the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture at the Newberry Library promoted innovative research, teaching, and public programming in the humanities.

The Scholl Center began in 1971 as the Family and Community History Center, launched with a $35,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation. In its early years, the center was a leader in developing methods for community history and quantitative history. In 1991, following a series of gifts from the Dr. Scholl Foundation, the center was rededicated as the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for Family and Community History. The center engaged in major research projects, teacher professional development, exhibit production, and scholarly community building. In 2008, the center was renamed the Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture and continued its work through digital projects, exhibits, and scholarly activity. In 2017, the work of the center was reorganized, and the Chicago Studies Program launched in its place.

Over several decades, the Center developed important several Scholarly Seminars which continue as a central function of the Newberry Institute for Research and Education.

List of Scholl Center Programs, 2014-2017

Selected Scholl Center Research Projects since 2004

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is a 2010 database that maps all of the changes in the boundaries, names, and organization of every US county from its creation to the present. Digital maps and files are freely available at the project website for research and classroom use.

Chicago Conference on the American Revolution

In February 2011, the University of Chicago’s Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture and the Scholl Center co-sponsored an international conference on the American Revolution at the Newberry. The largest scholarly gathering on the subject since the bicentennial, the conference brought together nearly forty specialists from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds. Several works presented at this conference were included in The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2012), edited by Jane Kamensky and Edward Gray.

Encyclopedia of Chicago

The Encyclopedia of Chicago is an NEH-funded collaboration between the Scholl Center and the Chicago History Museum, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2004. This dynamic and unprecedented metropolitan history includes thousands of historical resources, such as articles, photos, maps, broadsides, and newspapers related to Chicago’s colorful and complex history.

From Frontier to Heartland

With major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the Scholl Center completed this web-only exhibit in 2009. This online resource explores the interaction of the local and the global in mid-continent North America from the 1650s to the 1950s. The site includes scholarly perspectives, reference materials, teaching resources, and historical documents and artifacts.

Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North

With major funding from, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Newberry produced an exhibit in autumn 2013, that explored the ways lives on the home front were altered by the Civil War. It juxtaposed a group of paintings from the Terra Foundation for American Art collections with a material drawn from the Newberry collections. The exhibition was accompanied by a book published by the University of Chicago Press and lives on as a digital exhibit.

Lincoln at 200

The two exhibitions at this 2009 site explore Lincoln’s views on slavery and westward expansion as well as the fundamental changes in his thinking during his presidency. Lincoln at 200 is a collaborative project of the Newberry, the Chicago History Museum and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955

As part of a 2013 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute “Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955,” the Scholl Center launched a web-based exhibition on literary modernism in Chicago. The digital exhibition features items from the Newberry’s collections, contextualizing essays, and resources for instructors.

Outspoken: Chicago’s Free Speech Tradition

This 2005 online resource accompanied a collaborative public exhibition between the Newberry and the Chicago History Museum. It explores Chicago’s free speech tradition over the past 150 years and provides documents and sources related to the people and organizations who made the city a beacon of freedom.

Pullman: Labor, Race, and the Urban Landscape in a Company Town

In the summer of 2011, the Scholl Center held two NEH Landmarks in American History and Culture workshops focused on Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood. In conjunction with the workshops, Scholl Center staff also created an online exhibit on the Pullman community with nearly 300 digitized items from the Newberry’s Pullman Company Archives and other collections.

Picturing America School Collaboration Conferences

In 2009-10, the Scholl Center directed Picturing America School Collaboration Conferences in conjunction with the NEH’s Picturing America initiative that explored the role of landscape imagery in shaping national identity. The conferences were designed to help secondary school teachers integrate American art into humanities teaching.