Southeast Awarded History Channel Grant to Partner with Franklin School on Lorimier Cemetery Study

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Aug. 27, 2007 – The History Channel has awarded Southeast Missouri State University a $10,000 Save Our History grant to partner with Franklin Elementary School in Cape Girardeau on a project titled “Digging Up Buried History: Documentation and Preservation of Old Lorimier Cemetery.” The award provides funding to enlist Franklin’s third grade classes in the year-long study beginning this school year.

Southeast is one of 27 organizations nationwide from about 350 applicants that received Save Our History community preservation grants. These grants fund innovative preservation projects designed to bring communities together, actively engage children in the preservation of their local history and communicate the importance of saving local history for future generations.

Dr. Frank Nickell, director of the Center for Regional History at Southeast Missouri State University, developed the grant, in cooperation with the staff of Franklin Elementary School. Nickell will assist the students and staff of Franklin Elementary School in becoming familiar with Old Lorimier Cemetery.

“In the proposal, I said Old Lorimier Cemetery is one of the best places in the community from which we can study and learn about our past,” Nickell said. “Who better to do the work than youngsters who begin to study local history in the third grade? Old Lorimier can be an important historical laboratory to introduce students to the history of their community.”

Students will create their own video footage and photographic record of their findings, and compile an instructional booklet which will be distributed to all third graders in the community.

David Andrews, manager of Video Services at Southeast Missouri State University, will film students at various stages of the project. Both Andrews’ and the students’ footage will be made into a DVD to be placed in each instructional book.

“I hope the students will get a sense of community and civic pride” as a result of the project, said Rhonda Dunham, principal of Franklin Elementary School. “I hope they (the students) learn something about themselves too.”

Dunham said she was surprised to learn about the grant award.

“I was stunned,” she said. “To find out we had gotten it took my breath away.”

Nickell said his proposal clearly matched the “Save Our History” objectives in the History Channel grant program. One major objective indicated the project should provide a clear opportunity to study and “save” history. Another stated criteria required the involvement of students and the sharing of the project with a broad local audience.

“They wanted the project to engage students in the work,” Nickell said. “This project does just that. In reading the stated criteria, the proposal seemed to fit every one of their objectives. Once the grant was submitted, we believed we would be very competitive because we clearly matched their stated goals.”

In addition to learning about the cemetery’s past, students will be introduced to the use of global positioning systems (GPS) in creating maps and in the documentation of fixed positions in cemeteries.

The instructional book will contain photographs, biographies, maps and descriptions of proper care of cemeteries and tombstones. Once it is complete, the students themselves will present their work.

“The culmination of the project will be a presentation by the Franklin students to other third graders and the broader community. In the proposal, I suggested some of the students could present, in character, biographical profiles of the significant historical characters interred at Old Lorimier,” said Nickell. “This will be a great opportunity for the teachers and students at Franklin and for the community.” 

Filming for the project will be done in the fall as the students work in the cemetery in September, October and November, Nickell said. Students will prepare their public presentations in February and March. By May of 2008, the students will present their hard work to other third grade classrooms and the public.

The book will be developed under the supervision of Franklin teachers.

“The instructional book will be a resource to be used by teachers and students for many years,” said Nickell. “Combined with the DVD, the two items should make for a valuable educational aid.”

The History Channel, with the counsel of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and American Association of State and Local History, created the Save Our History Grant Program as an extension of the Save Our History philanthropic initiative and is committed to inspiring and motivating local communities to learn about and take an active role in the preservation of their past through projects involving artifacts, oral histories, sites, museums or landmarks that exist in their own neighborhoods. In four years, 1,934 historic organizations, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia have applied for funding through the Save Our History Grant Program. To date, The History Channel and its cable partners have given $1 million  to fund community preservation projects across the country.

In addition to this project, The History Channel is also awarding Save Our History grants to historic organizations in Alaska, Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont and Wisconsin.

“The History Channel receives stacks of applications for Save Our History grants,” said Dr. Libby O’Connell, SVP, corporate outreach and chief historian, The History Channel. “Southeast Missouri State University demonstrated the creativity and commitment to preservation and education that we believe is fundamental to giving our past a bright future.”