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New digital exhibit commemorates Bulloch County’s fallen WWI heroes

A new digital exhibit, created by Georgia Southern University students with the guidance of Dr. Brian Feltman and librarian Autumn Johnson, honors Bulloch County's World War I fallen heroes. The site provides an in-depth look at the lives and sacrifices of these soldiers, particularly those historically overlooked.
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A new digital exhibit commemorating Bulloch County’s World War I fallen heroes has been launched, thanks to the collaborative efforts of students from Georgia Southern University’s course on the History of the First World War and the support of Autumn Johnson, Special Collections Librarian.

The website is developed as a permanent digital exhibit and aims to provide an in-depth look at the lives and sacrifices of the county's soldiers, particularly focusing on those who have been historically overlooked.

Under the guidance of Dr. Brian Feltman, the students utilized various sources from Georgia Southern's Special Collections Library, local newspapers, and other online archives to curate the content for the website. The Special Collections Library, where the archives of the Statesboro American Legion Post are housed, played a crucial role in this project.

These archives, along with the assistance of librarian Autumn Johnson, provided rich primary source materials that were integral to the research.

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The exhibit, although digital, strives to grow continually. Plans are in place to add a comprehensive list of all veterans from Bulloch County and continue gathering information on the fallen.

A particularly significant aspect of the project is the inclusion of biographies of African American soldiers from Bulloch County, who were previously omitted from postwar commemorations. The project seeks to give these soldiers the recognition they deserve.

"The importance of this site is tied to the need to not only commemorate Bulloch County's fallen WWI veterans but to tell the stories behind the names," said Dr. Feltman. "Very often, fallen soldiers are reduced to a name on a commemorative list. Individual stories can be lost when we simply list names on a monument. This project was designed to raise awareness of how the First World War impacted Bulloch County in a way that provides insight into the lives of the soldiers who never returned from their military service."

The digital exhibit aims to make the history of the First World War relevant to the local community by providing personal stories and details about the soldiers from Bulloch County. This initiative highlights the global conflict's impact on the community and encourages residents to explore how their local history was shaped by the war.

Despite some previous efforts to record the history of Bulloch County, most have only briefly mentioned the First World War. This new project aims to address this gap by providing the first biographical sketches of the African American soldiers from the county who died in the war. Dr. Feltman chose this research focus to give students hands-on experience with archival sources and to help them understand the importance of connecting with the broader community.

The project took about five months and involved 30 students. Autumn Johnson, who played a vital role in guiding the students, explained, "As the Special Collections Librarian, I worked with the class to help them develop their familiarity with primary source materials available to them in Special Collections at Georgia Southern and through other resources from the University Libraries."

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Students accessed data on fallen WWI soldiers through various resources, including the American Legion Auxiliary Dexter Allen Unit No. 90 records, which consist of letters, newspaper clippings, and other materials documenting Bulloch County veterans. Additionally, resources like Ancestry helped students identify vital records, service cards, and census records.

Johnson hopes the site will help both students and the community understand the impact of World War I on Bulloch County.

"Often the war is overshadowed by conflicts that came after, but it was an important part of even our local history," she shared. "I also hope visitors to the site will appreciate the breadth and depth of resources students were able to compile and their attempts to tell a more complete story of the Bulloch County fallen."

The History Department at Georgia Southern, known for its commitment to community engagement, hopes to expand this project to include a database of all Bulloch County residents who served in WWI and to create new biographies of veterans who passed in the years immediately following the war. The department is also open to researching the local fallen of other wars, building on their previous work with WWII and Vietnam War artifacts.

Community members are encouraged to explore the website and contribute any family artifacts or information related to Bulloch County in WWI. The students’ dedication to the project aims to create an educational and valuable resource for the community, honoring the memories of those who served and ensuring their stories are not forgotten.

For more information or to contribute to the project, visit it here: The Bulloch World War I Memorial Project.