Student selected for 'Century America' project


The year was 1914, and Europe had just plunged into the first World War. What were MCLA and North Adams like back then? What was the College's mission, and what challenges did the campus and the greater community face?

This spring semester, Alisia True '14 of Lyndeborough, N.H., will answer those questions as she joins nine other students from the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) member campuses founded before 1914 to discover what their own institutions were like 100 years ago.

As a transfer student to MCLA from New Hampshire's Nashua Community College, COPLAC's Digital Humanities "Century America" project offers True a chance to learn more about the College during the Great War.

"World War I is probably one of the most interesting of the foreign wars that America has participated in. For better or worse, it really changed the way we fought wars. The clash of old military tactics and new technology, while tragic, was a critical moment in history," True said.

In addition to completing important research on their home institutions, student researchers will contribute to the building of the multi-campus digital "Century America" website as they develop skills in the areas of digital presentation and collaborative research, and hone each of these important skills for professional success in the new century.

According to True, the skills she gains will be invaluable.

"Being able to work with professors from other schools, as well as other students, to build something informational based in today's Internet-oriented society is an important aspect to my education and preparation for my future career."

True, who has loved history ever since she can remember, also has been a fan of anything Sherlock Holmes-related since her childhood. She sees historians as detectives.

"I found that history was a field I could see myself remaining passionate about and working in long-term," she said. "I love the research aspect of being a history major. Even since I was a kid, I've loved learning and gathering as much information as I could about various topics.

"Looking back, I've realized that I've always been a researcher at heart," True continued. "History is incredibly important and always relevant. From broad and well-known subjects like the Civil War to small towns and family histories, it all fascinates me. Sometimes history is the best way to study the human condition."

The Century America project, True said, will help her as she prepares to enter graduate school to become a historical archivist.

"Being surrounded by stacks of dusty old documents every day, helping people with their research, making important pieces of history available to people - that's right where I want to be," she explained.

"I'm really very adamant about the digitization of archive collections. There is nothing to replace the feeling of having the article right in front of you, but for many people that is just not feasible - financially or logistically. By digitizing these collections, we can really open up these important pieces of history to everyone."

True decided to attend MCLA in part because of its friendly atmosphere. However, the best part of being an MCLA student, she said, is its size.

"I never see anyone I don't recognize. I always feel safe, and the small class sizes really give me a chance to learn more and have meaningful relationships with professors. At a larger school ... I don't think I would have had the same opportunities, such as this project, that I have here at MCLA."

The "Century America" project is made possible with funding by the Teagle Foundation of New York.