Understanding Local versus Global Perspectives (by Chiara Kalogjera-Sackellares)

May 22, 2015 

This week, I gained some insights into how Michigan alumni, students, faculty, and families experienced the war from home. One of the most informative collections for understanding the student and faculty experiences at the University of Michigan came from the Department of Physics. I learned about the relationship between the University and the War Department in terms of doing research and engineering for the war effort. It was interesting to learn that advisers were instructed to advise their students to elect the option to completed school at an accelerated rate. This intention was so that educated students could contribute to the war effort more quickly. Perhaps most interesting of all to me was the huge effort of students and professors to ensure that their students or even they themselves were placed in a military position that allowed them to practice their discipline whether it be physics or engineering. Numerous letters were written with this aim in mind and it also shows the strong relationships students and professors had. Fortunately, even if these students were unsuccessful in attaining a scientific assignment in the military many were able to return to complete their education following the completion of the was. I really enjoyed following the journey of these students and the faculty through the war and it provide great insights into how knowledge and skills attained in the University could be directly applied to the war effort but it was even more rewarding to see the friendships that grew and were strengthened through the war.

I also spent time finishing the numerous letters from Harry Crawford home to his family. His letters provide such a wealth of information about his experience in the war that I think he will make a great candidate for a character profile for the exhibit. He is one of the most dynamic soldiers whose letters I have had the privilege of reading.

Having read many collections over the past few weeks, I hope that, moving forward, I can begin to draw the connections between each of these sources to understand how they form a narrative about the experiences of University of Michigan students, faculty, families, and alumni in the war. Specifically I hope to focus on how the experiences are represented differently through various mediums of expression, letters, diaries, songs, poetry, and memoirs and through time as well as look at the how perspectives of the war differ depending on one’s role in the war and location (home front or war front).