Diaries, Oral Histories, and Other Narratives
Panoramic maps may help us to visualize information gleaned from a variety of narratives, including oral history interviews, old family letters, and diaries. Your local library, and possibly your own family archive may contain historical materials that mention towns or cities that are rendered in panoramic maps from this collection. For example, this map of Lafayette, Indiana depicts the town at the same time in which events described in a narrative from American Life Histories, 1936-1940 took place. Zoom into the map and locate sites mentioned in the narrative (or make an educated guess as to where they are).
. . . the graying three-story business building at 209-11 South Street [was] a hospital for rebel prisoners sent to the city . . . during the late winter of 1862. They had been captured in the battle at Fort Donelson which resulted in a major victory for the Union army . . . It was on Sunday, February 23, 1862 that the prisoners arrived, 806 of them . . . Prisoners who died here were buried in Greenbush cemetery . . . in the extreme north-west corner, along Greenbush Street. There are 28 of these stones . . . The special train carrying the prisoners was due to arrive at 5 P.M., but a crowd began gathering about the South Street station as early as two . . . Most of the prisoners were young men, pale, beardless boys, some under seventeen, members of the 32nd and 41st Tennessee regiments. They had served but four and one-half months. Few were in uniforms, most wearing butternut jeans. . . . The Red warehouse, [where?] the prisoners were first taken, was at the foot of Chestnut Street, on the east side of the canal and near the present strawboard plant. . . . Many of the prisoners had severe colds, and 12 or 14 were seriously ill upon their arrival. . . . they had suffered twenty days of unparalleled exposure and hardships before and after their capture. . . . This condition [suggested?] immediate steps to provide hospitalization. A number of women . . . rented the "large and commodious room" known as Walsh's hall, now at 209.11 South Street, for a hospital. The room quickly was fitted with beds. The executive committee of women handling this matter was made up of Mrs. Lewis Falley, Miss Fields Stockwell, and Mrs. Dr. O.L. Clark. . .
- Does your family have written materials handed down by past generations? If so, you might check the panoramic map collection to see if there are maps of sites referred to in these documents.
- Read an historical novel and search the panoramic map collection to see if you can locate buildings that are referred to in the story. To what extent did the writer invent the locale of the story? To what extent did the author use historical facts to depict the town?
- Imagine that you are a Civil War soldier, a riverboatman, or a traveling performer. Write a postcard home to your family telling about your experiences: someone you have met, an object you have seen, or a story you have heard. Be creative!
- Search the collections, American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940, California As I Saw It: First Person Narratives, 1849-1900, Narratives of the American South, 1860-1920, or Pioneering the Upper Midwest, ca. 1820-1910, for materials with which to investigate a panoramic map.