“The Southwest History Project” by S. Michael Sleeter


S. Michael Sleeter’s project focuses on expanding Public History practices in the community of the Southwest Independent School District.  Its main goal is to establish a community historical society that will preserve and promote the local history of the area while allowing students to gain practical experience in the field.  A newly created Public History class at the High School will support it.  By giving members of the community the knowledge and ability to record and preserve their local history, the power to keep alive the collective memory is in the hands of those who made this area their home.

The main objective of the historical society would be to promote and preserve the history of this community on the Southwest side of San Antonio with the secondary purpose of giving aspiring future historians a place to gain practical knowledge and practice their skills. Not only would it be promoting the local history of the community, but it would also be training the next generation of historians to continue the work.  Ultimately, the final product would create a self-sustaining program.  The students would be running the local history society and guiding the direction it would take while they are learning the skills needed to maintain and improve it.  Since the students come from the community it would truly be a community history project for the school district. The school district recently came into possession of the Krause House, which is a settler’s home built originally in the waddle and daub style and expanded over the years when it served as a family home.  This would be a great location to serve as the community center for the historical society; however, its current condition is not ideal. After speaking about restoration with Hansel Hernandez from the Texas Historical Commission, S. Michael is writing grants that will allow the property to be repaired and turned into a usable building should the school district wish to move in that direction.

To allow the expansion of a public history curriculum in the state of Texas, he created T.E.K.S. for a proposed public history class to follow. This gives students a chance to not only learn history but to do so in a way that allows them to practice valuable skills that they can use later in life. There currently are no public history high school level classes for the state of Texas, and even organizations like the National Council of Public History have information on enhancing the current curriculum, but not directly teaching public history at the high school level.  Using spare trophy cases the class could construct their own mini-museum that would be on display to the whole school community and to visitors to the school.  The exhibits will feature what the students think is important to the history of the community.  Researching, cataloging, and displaying the artifacts that they have collected make up the curriculum.  The mini-museum will serve as a laboratory of sorts to give the student a chance to practice the skills they have learned in class. The student will also be learning about the digital aspects of public history.  They will add artifacts to the online museum that I have started.  Not only will they collect, but also they will show they have learned to properly supply the metadata for their online resources.

You can click the link below to explore the Southwest Historic Society Project Digital Archive.

The Southwest History Project Exhibit

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