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Students Create Interactive Online Database

Posted by Jayce Koester ’16, Center for Small Towns on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013

Abigail Thebault–Spieker ’16, Bemidji, and Tori McDougald ’15, Nashua, are working to create an inventory of Minnesota River Valley historical sites that will be incorporated into an interactive online database and website for the Minnesota Valley History Learning Center. The database will encompass sites along the Minnesota River, allowing users to search by both location and site to find more information. The Minnesota River Valley stretches from Big Stone Lake to the metro area—Thebault-Spieker and McDougald will work with sites throughout this area.

Thebault-Spieker and McDougald are utilizing a variety of tools and research methods to create a comprehensive inventory from information that was originally scattered throughout the internet. The goal is to allow the general public to be able to easily access this information and encourage people to visit historical sites throughout the state. The two hope to finish the project in early September, when the Minnesota Valley History and Learning Center plans to unveil the newly compiled site for the Historical Learning Center’s symposium in Morton. They are working closely with Ted Susse from the Minnesota Valley History Learning Center, and Kelly Asche, Center for Small Towns (CST) community program specialist.

“I think the best part about this project is that it’s going to make it much easier for people to find out what some of these historical sites and societies are about,” says McDougald. “A lot of them are great places with a lot of great history and information, and they would be exciting to visit, but it can be hard to find all of that information, and it’s rarely all in one place.” She hopes the website will solve that.

For Thebault-Spieker, the project is personal. “My family used to stop at sites like this all the time when I was a kid,” she says. “To be able to do this project brings back those memories, and I hope that by doing this more kids will have a chance to stop and see them, too.”

Both students are also engaged in other work with CST. Thebault-Spieker is working with Dakota Wicohan to research a system to better support Native American artists as well as researching abandoned and repurposed schools in rural Minnesota. McDougald is creating a functional database and library system for all of CST’s reports and records. She also served as the student coordinator and a host-committee member for the Rural Arts and Culture Summit in June.

The University of Minnesota, Morris Center for Small Towns (CST) is a community outreach program that serves as a point-of-entry to the resources of the University of Minnesota. Small towns, local units of government, k-12 schools, nonprofit organizations, and other University units are able to utilize the Center’s resources as they work on rural issues or make contributions to rural society. Their mission is to focus the University’s attention and marshal its resources toward assisting Minnesota’s small towns with locally identified issues by creating applied learning opportunities for faculty and students.