Project Proposal

Taking Sides at Sackville

This exhibit seeks to explore several different perspectives on the Siege of Fort Sackville (located in present day Vincennes, IN), an event that is celebrated in U.S. history as a major victory for American forces in the Mid-West during the American Revolutionary War. While the exhibit will present the traditional British and American viewpoints, it also seeks to consider the perspectives of the French people living in the area and the American Indians fighting on both the British and American sides. This exhibit will investigate these diverse viewpoints by using a storytelling approach to examine personal documents and artifacts which represent the lives of several individuals (such as George Rogers Clark, Captain Joseph Bowman, Henry Hamilton, François Riday Busseron, Father Pierre Gibault, and Francis Vigo) who took part in this event. This will allow visitors to draw their own conclusions about these individuals’ actions and attitudes.

Four main types of items will be utilized in this project: depictions of the event, documents, artifacts, and gravestones. First of all, the exhibit will make use of depictions of the event such as paintings created by Frederick C. Yohn. Specifically, his paintings “The Fall of Fort Sackville” and “Clark’s March to Vincennes,” created in 1923, will be used. These will be used to examine how Yohn depicts certain people groups found in the exhibit. Secondly, documents relating to Clark and the events surrounding the Siege will be utilized. Examples include: The Articles of Surrender, Patrick Henry’s secret instructions to Clark to attack British posts in the west; Captain Bowman’s Field Journal and Henry Hamilton’s journal. These documents will help connect the visitors with the time period, as they can examine the original physical document as well as read the individuals’ own words. Thirdly, the exhibit will utilize historic artifacts that were uncovered on site by archeologists from Indiana University. These will be linked to specific stories of individuals who might have used such items, thus creating a better connection between the physical objects and the more abstract stories. Finally, the site will utilize images of gravestones to explore how the participants were remembered by others after the event.

The target audience for this exhibit is 4th grade students from Indiana, 5th grade students from across the country, their teachers, and their parents. In the Indiana public schools, Indiana State History is taught in fourth grade. Throughout the country, United States History is taught in fifth grade. User interviews with 4th grade teachers in Indiana have indicated that the Siege of Fort Sackville is an important topic in Indiana State History, but one that is not explored in much detail in school textbooks. This exhibit would give students the chance to expand upon their knowledge of Fort Sackville gained in the classroom and explore several different cultural perspectives of the people involved. This exhibit is also designed to be informative to fourth and fifth grade teachers who are seeking to expand their own knowledge of this event in order to better teach it to their students.

Finally, the site is designed to be family friendly, so that the students and their parents can explore these perspectives together. This exhibit will seek to engage its audience by using digital technology in two ways: the presentation of compelling collections and interactive gameplay. First, digital technology such as Omeka will be used to present and organize the collection items which help tell the story from many different perspectives. Secondly, this site will use the Embed Codes plugin to display interactive elements (built in websites such as Purpose Games or that allow visitors to quiz themselves and to make choices based on the information presented. Two examples include: a “Who said that?” activity which asks visitors to match quotes to the individuals who said them, and a “What would you have done if you were in their shoes?” activity that lets them spin a wheel to show possible consequences and outcomes based on the visitors’ choices.

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