June 16, 2006

Historical projects capture honors

by Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Four historical projects produced at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently won prizes in an annual competition held by the Association of Illinois Museums and Historical Society.

SIUC's award-winners include a book series, two nonfiction books and a television special.

The awards were presented in conjunction with the Society's 105th annual meeting, held this spring in Elgin.

Awards recognize and encourage the efforts of individuals, groups and organizations that collect, preserve, exhibit or publish the history of the Prairie State.

A closer look at the winners with ties to SIUC;

  • Gordon Pruett and the Shawnee Classics Book Series, published by the SIU Press, snared a Superior Achievement award for special projects.

    "As editor of the Shawnee Classics book series for the SIUC Press for ... ten years, Gordon Pruett made significant historical resources available to a broader group of students, scholars and the general public through his effort to reprint classic Illinois books and provide a new context for them through a new introduction or preface. The 22 titles he selected and edited for the series help to preserve and make accessible important aspects of the state's history for years to come," wrote the competition's judges.

  • "Chicago Death Trap" by Nat Brandt and published by the SIU Press, won one of only two Certificates of Excellence in the Scholarly Publications division.

    "An engaging history of the Iroquois Theatre Fire, 'Chicago Death Trap' provides a comprehensive analysis of the factors that created the disaster and its consequences for Chicago," agreed the judges.

  • "An Uncertain Tradition; U.S. Senators from Illinois, 1818-2003," by David Kenney and Robert E. Hartley and published by the SIU Press, landed the only other Certificate of Excellence in the Scholarly Publications category.

    "This comprehensive survey of Illinois' U.S. senators, which documents the senators' personalities, political ambitions and their convictions, will serve as a valuable reference for any student of Illinois history," according to the judges.

  • "The Legend of Charlie Birger," by WSIU Public Television, produced by David Kidd, received one of only two Certificates of Excellence in the multimedia division.

    "A compelling video documentary of one of southern Illinois' most notorious outlaws, 'The Legend of Charlie Birger' is an excellent example of how communities can come together to tell a common story. Using local actors and musicians, interviews with eyewitnesses, academics and regional historians, producer David Kidd explored the myths and facts of Charlie Birger's infamous career and found a new audience for fading local history."

"When it comes to documenting and interpreting our history, Illinois publishers, museums, and historical societies continue to push the envelope of excellence," said Russell Lewis, chair of the society's award committee.

"This year's entries ... reflect highly on the communities and institutions that produced them," Lewis added.

Leading in research, scholarly and creative activities is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, SIUC's long-range plan to elevate the University to one of the nation's top 75 research institutions by the time it reaches its 150th birthday in 2019.