Thursday 27 February 2014

Students from the Containing Multitudes II History module visit the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library

 Containing Multitudes II is an introductory survey module that presents students with the broad outlines of American history from the end of the nineteenth century to the present day. It follows a chronological sequence with weekly topics on the major themes and events in U.S. history since 1890. During their week on the Second World War, the students from the Containing Multitudes module visited the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library in the city centre to explore some of their archival material and secondary sources relating to the Second World War. 

The Memorial Library was built in commemoration of the nearly 20,000 American airmen of the 8th Air Force who served in East Anglia during WWII. As such, the library archive, on deposit with the Norfolk Record Office, has access to personal papers, diaries, photographs, wartime newspapers and magazines, informational pamphlets issued by the U.S. Government and other wartime memorabilia specific to those who served in Norfolk and Suffolk. 

Making use of the library’s primary and secondary sources, the budding historians were able to study, contextualize and analyze the various ways that the war impacted the everyday lives of Americans both at home and abroad. With a multitude of resources at their disposal, each student was left to independently select and research two primary sources of their choice and then present and decode them for the rest of the class.

Focusing on war time ads, posters, art and propaganda, some students examined how support for the war was mobilized and how gender, race and national identity was written, coded and read into many of these wartime ads. Stepping away from national wartime rhetoric others chose to reflect on the ways in which the war affected specific individuals. Appropriately, these students focused on eyewitness accounts, letters from soldiers to their families, diaries and memoirs. Still, others were keen to research the way the war affected specific communities, like women, children and people of color. Finally, some were more interested in the specific experience of the Americans serving in Norfolk and the local communities that received them. 

Having examined material that was produced by the American citizenry and U.S. government during the period of study, the students were offered a unique perspective into the individual, domestic and international consequences of the Second World War. Additionally, the students gained an important opportunity to put their organizational and analytical skills to the test by assessing the primary sources from that period. By the end, the two seminar groups, through their research, presentation and discussion had gained a wider understanding of what life may have been like during the Second World War.

With a lending collection of over 4,000 books, the Memorial Library can offer American Studies students a wide selection of historical and contemporary resources on American life, media, politics and culture. It also offers an alternative study space to the UEA campus that is centrally located within the city centre at the Forum. If you’re interested in learning more and keeping up to date with library events, you can follow their blog, like the facebook page or visit their website at:

**Containing Multitudes seminar leader, Becky Avila, who currently serves as the UEA American Scholar for the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, organized the field trip.

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