Center News, Spring 2017

Churches and Civic Life in Middletown Oral History Project.  The Center for Middletown Studies received a grant from the George and Frances Ball Foundation to support the Churches and Civic Life in Muncie Oral History Project.  It examines the changing role of churches in the community during the city’s transition to a post-industrial economy.  Research on the project, including a series of interviews with local religious leaders, is underway.

Visiting Scholars. The Center is pleased to host a group of visiting scholars from China during 2016-2017.  Gao Bingzhong and Han Chengyan, of Peking University, and Chen Qiuxu, of Northeast Normal University, are conducting ethnographic and historical research while in residence at the Center.  The visits will result in several publications and translations, including a major study of civic life in Muncie/Middletown and a Chinese-language edition of Middletown in Transition (originally published in 1937).

The Wild West in Middle America.  Our investigation of representations of the American Midwest in Middletown and other Midwestern contexts continues.   A full corpus of press accounts and commentary on the performances of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Indiana has been compiled and Jim Connolly will present an analysis of this and other material at the Buffalo Bill Centennial Symposium at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming, in August, 2017.  The project is sponsored by a grant from the Center of the West.

Virtual Middletown.  Two modules of a prototype for Virtual Middletown, the 3D visualization of community experiences in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Muncie, are now complete.  Depicting the Ball Brothers glass factory circa 1925 and a local performance of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1899.  The 3D environments are supported by digital archives that are accessible in-world.  The two modules will serve as proof of concept for this ongoing project.

The Everyday Life in Middletown Project.  Drawing on the example of Mass Observation, an investigation of everyday life in England launched in the 1930s, the Everyday Life in Middletown project (EDLM) examines the daily experiences of local residents.  Headed by Patrick Collier (English), the project will collect diaries and other commentary about ordinary experiences that too often go unrepresented in public conversation and yet may provide a basis for a shared sense of community.  EDLM continues work undertaken by Collier and BSU students at the Virginia Ball Centerbs in 2016; it is jointly supported by the Center and BSU’s Digital Scholarship Lab.

The Modern Politics of Middletown.  Working with Chad Kinsella (Political Science), the Center will undertake an investigation of voter polarization in Delaware County and in similar environs in other parts of the United States.  BSU’s Digital Scholarship Lab is also sponsoring the project.

American Muslims in Muncie.  Elizabeth Agnew (Philosophy and Religious Studies) will lead a Virginia Ball Center project examining the experiences of the local Muslim community during the 2017-18 academic year.  Center director Jim Connolly will serve on the Advisory Board and the Center will supply logistical support for the project.

Print Culture Research.  The two books produced as a result of the Center’s investigation of reading habits in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Muncie continue to attract attention.  Both What Middletown Read: Print Culture in an American Small City (Massachusetts, 2015) and Print Culture Histories Beyond the Metropolis (Toronto, 2016) have received strong reviews.  What Middletown Read authors Frank Felsenstein and Jim Connolly presented research derived from analysis of the What Middletown Read database at the University of London and Columbia University during the 2016-2017 academic year and will publish an article based on the London presentation in Reading Communities a forthcoming volume to be published in the U.K.