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Webb Society Sponsor's Handbook - Chapter Activities

Forming a Chapter
Projects and Activities
Keeping the Chapter's History
The Annual Meetings

SUGGESTED STEPS IN FORMING A WEBB SOCIETY CHAPTER

The organization and administration of Webb Historical Society chapters is left largely to the discretion of the local sponsors; however, the following procedural steps are recommended:

1. Administration Approval. Since the local Webb Historical Society chapters will function as official school community educational service organizations of the sponsoring institutions, administrative approval is essential.

3. Chapter Cosponsor. The cosponsor, either a teacher or a layperson interested in community history, serves as a liaison between the school and the community. Both sponsors and cosponsors are encouraged to hold memberships in the Texas State Historical Association. The annual membership is $50.

4. Membership. There is no minimum number of students required to organize a Webb Historical Society Chapter. Most chapters, however, have at least ten members. Numbers and selection varies with each school. In most chapters membership is open to any student, regardless of major field, who has an interest in history. Each chapter may also establish its individual membership requirements. Society members are encouraged to become student members of the Texas State Historical Association (a special $20 student rate is available to Society members) and to subscribe to Touchstone. (See Southwestern Historical Quarterly and Touchstone items below).

5. Organization. The organization and administration of each chapter is left to the discretion of the individual sponsor and cosponsor(s) and should be structured to serve local needs. The election of officers is recommended. The number and designation of student officers is left to the discretion of each chapter.

6. Constitution. Many chapters adopt a constitution that defines specific objectives and outlines general operational procedures of the organization. A sample Webb Historical Society chapter constitution is available through TSHA; however, this should be adapted to meet the needs and requirements of each local organization.

7. Charter. The Texas State Historical Association provides an official charter for each Webb Historical Society chapter. In order to keep the form and process as updated as possible, the charter request form is available on the Association’s website.

8. Chapter Dues. Some chapters assess either monthly or annual dues. This is a local matter as no dues are sent to the state office.

9. Meetings. A regular meeting schedule is recommended usually weekly or monthly. The dates and location of meetings are usually expressed in the chapter constitution.

10. Southwestern Historical Quarterly. Sponsors, cosponsors, and chapter members of the Webb Historical Society are encouraged to be members of the Texas State Historical Association and receive the Southwestern Historical Quarterly. The Quarterly contains the latest outstanding scholarship in Texas and southwestern history.

11. Touchstone. The award winning essays in the Webb Historical Society's annual writing contests are published each year in Touchstone, the annual journal of the Society. All chapter members are also urged to purchase this publication.

12. Projects and Activities. Chapter projects and activities form the crux of the Webb Historical Society experience. Sponsors are encouraged to select those activities that are most applicable to their needs. (See A List of Suggested Chapter Activities).

SAMPLE CONSTITUTION

WEBB SOCIETY CONSTITUTION*
Preamble

We, the members of the Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society, in order to stimulate interest in the history of ____________________ and ____________________ County, add to the exhibits of the ____________________ Museum, assist in the collection of books and historical documents for the Texas section of the ____________________ Library, and to assist the ____________________ County Historical Commission to identify and preserve the historical landmarks in Texas, do hereby ordain and establish this constitution for the Webb Historical Society Chapter of ____________________College/University, ___________________ ,Texas.

Article I (Name)

The name of this organization shall be the __________________________________.

Article II (Membership)

All students, faculty, and staff of ____________________College/University who are interested in the history of our county and state shall be eligible for membership. Any former member may retain his membership by paying the current dues.

Article III (Dues)

The dues of the chapter shall be ____________________.

All members are encouraged to subscribe to the Southwestern Historical Quarterly and to Touchstone.

Article IV (officers and their Duties)

Section I. The officers of the chapter shall be: president, first vice-president, second vice president, secretary, treasurer, reporter, and chapter historian, plus others the chapter officers deem necessary.

Section II. The duties of the president shall be: to preside over meetings, to appoint committees, and to perform any other duties proper to the office.

Section III. The vice president shall preside in the absence of the president and shall also be program chairman.

Section IV. The second vice president shall be membership and publicity chairman.

Section V. The secretary shall keep a proper record of all meetings and the names and addresses of all members and shall conduct the chapter correspondence.

Section VI. The treasurer shall collect all dues from members, receive any other money due to the chapter, and pay bills when properly authorized.

Section VII. The reporter shall make reports to the local newspaper and school paper.

Section VIII. The chapter historian shall maintain a chapter history composed of clippings from the various newspapers, and a collection of the outstanding papers of the society and photographs of the various chapter activities.

Article V (Elections)

Officers shall be elected to serve for one year. Officers shall be proposed by a nominating committee, with the floor open to further nomination for each office. No officer shall be allowed to hold the same office in succession.

Article VI (Meetings)

Regular meetings shall be held each month, excepting the summer months. There shall be at least two field trips per year.

Article VII (Resignations)

All resignations will be submitted in written form to the president.

Article VIII (Amendments)

These bylaws may be amended by a two thirds vote of the members at any regular meeting.

Article IX (Attendance)

Members shall be uniform in attendance at regular chapter meetings, with one unexcused absence allowed per semester. The members shall be required to notify a chapter officer in the event of absence. Failure to do so shall be so construed as an unexcused absence.

*This constitution form is a composite drawn from several chapters. Each new chapter is free to adapt this constitution to fulfill its needs and objectives. A modifiable copy of this constitution is available in the Resource Section.

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LIST OF SUGGESTED CHAPTER ACTIVITIES

A Note to Chapter Sponsors: Chapter activities form the crux of the Webb Historical Society program. These activities, which serve both the institution and the community, also enable students to discover, preserve, and better understand history. The community benefits through cooperative programs with the local museum, the local historical society, and the County Historical Commission. For you, the sponsors, the benefits are especially significant: this concept of historical involvement enables you to employ the entire community as a teaching/learning resource, which adds a totally new dimension to learning.

One key to the program's appeal is that each chapter is autonomous and free to develop the projects and activities that are best suited to local needs. The following list, therefore, only suggests a beginning. Improvise as you proceed and share your successes with others who share your interests.

Many pleasant and rewarding experiences await those who aid students in becoming aware of their heritage.

1. Establishing Regional Historical Resource/Study Centers. The college/university campus is the logical site to establish a regional historical resource/study center if such a facility is not presently operative. The center may function as a library division, a department adjunct, a museum subsidiary, or a separate administrative division. In addition to providing a peripheral learning experience for students, the following projects and activities will yield materials and information that should be preserved in the community where it is collected. Basic bibliographic information appears at the end of the activity list.

(NOTE: Wherever feasible, Society chapters are encouraged to develop cooperative projects with existing historical agencies. Establishing primary projects are encouraged only when that specific community service is not being provided.)

2. Research and Writing. Research and writing projects yield multiple rewards. Society chapter members develop research and writing skills based on primary source materials they collect in the communities where they live or where they are enrolled. Student written research papers based on local topics are presently required in many college/university history classes. Both the materials and copies of the completed articles should be preserved in some local repository. Some of the outstanding papers may be submitted for inclusion on the Texas State Historical Association annual meeting program and for publication in Touchstone, the Webb Society's journal.

The subjects are as varied as the regions of Texas: biography, family history, urban history, pioneer life, agricultural history, industrial history, ranch life, business history, transportation history (trails, bridges, waterways, highways, railroads, and airlines), school history, institutional history, ethnic history, accounts of local importance, plus any subject that appeals to the student and for which materials are available. The sources are many: family correspondence, diaries, account ledgers, business records, census reports, courthouse and land office records, church records, tax records, old newspaper files, family picture albums, and interviews with "old timers."

Student written family histories are excellent introductory projects to historical research and writing. Through the use of familiar and readily available materials, students learn the basic historiographic concepts. Also, in developing these introductory papers the students frequently discover family papers, correspondence, and diaries worthy of further research and writing. SUGGESTION: emphasize the difference between genealogy and family history. While the former is largely lineage and chronology, the latter is developed within a broader historical context.

3. Organized Collections Programs. The organizational framework of the Webb Historical Society is easily adapted to a community wide historical inventory/collections program. Teams of students assigned to specific areas of the town/community/county/region can conduct a well organized historical materials canvass with maximum yield in minimum time. Advance publicity in the local media facilitates this activity.

A successful collections program is developed in two stages: (1) inventory; and (2) acquisition. The Society members locate and identify the materials in phase one. Once the material is located, they attempt to acquire the unique items through loan or donation for research, study, exhibition, or preservation. Again, a good public information program facilitates the collections program.

The yield is varied: diaries, letters, business records, cultural artifacts, wearing apparel, newspapers, magazines, almanacs, political tracts, books, maps, documents, photographs, etc. Photographs are one of the more valuable sources of historical information that provide an authentic record of how people looked, dressed, lived, worked, and played. All possible information about each photograph should be secured from the donor: date, location, names of the people in the photograph, and the event. This information should be typed on a sheet of paper and attached to the back of the photograph.

4. Oral History. Eyewitness accounts of local experiences add an additional dimension to recorded history. With the decline of written records of personal experiences - diaries, memoirs, and day to day records of specific events - oral sources have become increasingly important to the historian. The Society chapter framework lends itself well to developing a regional oral history program. It is extremely important that each chapter address itself to research topics that give the individual community regional uniqueness: lumbering, oil, cattle, sheep, goats, big ranching, small farming, irrigated farming, citrus farming, truck farming, migrant farm workers, specialized industry, shipping, transportation, fishing, recreational developments, etc. Retirement homes and retirement communities greatly facilitate recording oral history. A questionnaire will identify occupational specialties worthy of recording.

5. Folkways Collections Program. Disappearing pioneer skills and traditions are a significant part of regional heritage and offer a perceptive insight into the social evolution of a community. Collecting traditional recipes offers an interesting approach to cultural and ethnic history. Also audiovisual records of disappearing rural skills should be high priority projects for Society chapters: shoeing horses, blacksmithing, hand shearing sheep, making windmill repairs, making adobe brick, making syrup, hand weaving fishing nets, cultivating land with horse drawn implements, furniture making, and hand splitting shingles and boards. Each region has its individual pioneer traditions, therefore emphasize local and regional uniqueness. Taped interviews and/or an explanatory narration, plus a photographic record (35mm slides, Super 8mm movies, or black and white photographic enlargements) of pioneer skills will help preserve that activity for the future.

6. Field Trips to Historic Locations. Visiting locations of historic significance offers students insight into the events of history that are often difficult to obtain through text and photographs. By visiting such sites student interest is increased, often resulting in inspiration for further research. In addition these experiences help to build stronger interpersonal relationships among the attendees. A checklist to assist field trip planners in available in the Resource Section.

7. Researching the Origin of Local Place Names. A study of the origin of local place names -towns, airports, streets, rivers, schools, public buildings, etc. - often lead chapter members to topics that are intriguing and suitable for research and writing. Place name studies frequently provide an interesting introduction to the ethnic groups that settled and developed various communities.

8. Historical Architecture Survey. Local architecture offers a vast resource potential for Webb Society Chapters. In addition to Society members working with the County Survey Committee in locating, researching, and designating historic buildings, the study and analysis of the basic architectural designs provides an additional approach to understanding community growth and development. Being able to identify various architectural styles, learning their conceptual origins, understanding their philosophical implications, and examining them within the context of community history, opens new avenues to historical understanding.

9. Producing a Regional History/Folk Fair. A history and/or folk fair project involves all segments of the community - the college, university, museums, local historical organizations, service clubs, and the public and parochial schools - in a united historically oriented undertaking. While the history fair per se includes exhibits, displays, collections, and reconstructions based on local events, occurrences, and personalities; the folk fair focuses on the customs, foods, costumes, and products of various nationality groups represented in the community. The folk fair usually includes exhibits showing the contributions of the various groups to the community: books, folk music, folk dances, and pictures with biographic sketches of representative individuals of each nationality group.

10. Promoting Historical Awareness in the Public Schools. Many colleges and universities are acting as regional co sponsors of Junior Historian chapters in order to establish closer rapport between their institutions and the area public and parochial schools. By helping local schools organize Junior Historian chapters (history clubs), the educational establishment (teachers, students, and administrators) is drawn closer to the co sponsoring institution. On campus exhibits, seminars, institutes, and lectures attract both students and teachers to the college/university campus, while at the same time, student/faculty sponsoring teams visit the local school systems to aid both students and teachers in developing community research study programs. Everyone benefits. The local school systems benefit from additional consulting and resource services, while the cooperative program provides a new "show case" undertaking for the college and university. The residual benefits are unlimited for the sponsoring institutions. The regional history and/or folk fair is a prime vehicle for college/university/public school system cooperative project.

11. Cooperating With Local and County Historical Societies. Community service is another area in which members of the Webb Historical Society can help weld a meaningful bond between the sponsoring institution and the community it serves. By supporting local on going historical organizations, the experience can be mutually beneficial. The local organizations benefit from the youthful manpower of the Webb Society, while members of the Society benefit from the experience and knowledge gained in the cooperative undertakings. Again the college/university image in enhanced through local leadership and cooperation.

12. Webb Society Public Information Programs. Historically oriented radio programs, television programs, newspaper columns, and taped lecture/interview sessions give the Webb Society chapters maximum saturation in the community. While these activities provide multi faceted outlets for student creativity, the leadership of the sponsoring institutions is also brought to the community's attention.

13. Using the Southwestern Historical Quarterly Within a Critical Teaching-Learning Concept. The Quarterly, which contains outstanding scholarship on Texas and southwestern history, may be used in a wide variety of teaching concepts. Critical discussion of the articles sharpens the student's perception of historiographic excellence, stimulates his interest in creative writing, while broadening his knowledge of history. Discussion sessions (lab sessions or chapter meetings) may focus on some of the following points:

  • Ask the students to give a critical overview of the assigned article.
  • Do you feel the author gave adequate coverage of the topic? Are there noticeable omissions?
  • Is the topic treated as local history, or has the author projected the topic in a broad national and international context?
  • Does the author treat the topic with candor or is there an apparent interpretive bias?
  • What is the significance of this study?
  • Has the author made a worthy contribution to history?
  • Has the author "padded" his treatment of the subject or does the material justify the length?
  • Relating this topic to your home community, can you suggest additional research topics that should be developed?
  • Based on the scope and interpretive content of the article, give an imaginary character sketch of the author: economic status, religion, political affiliation, ethnic origin, personal interests, home state, etc.
  • Write a critical review of the articles.

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14. Keeping the Chapter’s History. As an organization of historians, it is incumbent on each chapter to maintain a permanent record of its activities. The chapter history should be updated annually and contain a detailed record of every phase of chapter activity. Key entries are as follows:

  1. Names of sponsors, cosponsors, chapter officers, and members
  2. Chapter constitution
  3. Minutes of meetings
  4. Listing of projects, programs, and activities
  5. Copies of printed programs in which the chapter participated
  6. Listing of field trips
  7. Secretary's correspondence files
  8. Newspaper clippings reporting chapter activities (dated, with paper's name)
  9. Chapter related photographs (dated with persons, places, and events identified)
  10. Copies of printed and duplicated chapter materials
  11. Oral history tapes, each with proper identification
  12. Publications in which sponsors' and chapter members' articles have appeared
  13. Treasurer's annual report
  14. All other materials that help document the chapter's history

Careful consideration should be given to the permanent maintenance of the chapter files. Many chapters use the annual scrapbook format, while others use an organized filing system, carefully dating each item. As new chapter officials are elected each fall, new files are set up to correspond with the new administration.

Permanent filing systems should be used whenever possible. Standard file cabinets, or manuscript boxes constructed of durable cardboard, are preferable. Consult your school librarian on which Junior Historian records, projects, or research can or should become part of the school’s archival holdings.

Whatever method is employed, it is important that a permanent record of each chapter's activities be maintained.

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15. Texas State Historical Association and Webb Society Meetings. The Texas State Historical Association holds a three day annual meeting in early March. The meeting features more than forty-five sessions focusing on various aspects of Texas history to the approximately 600 professional and lay historians in attendance. A special feature of longstanding is the Auction of Texana that includes antique books, maps, and prints. The site of the annual meeting alternates between Austin and other centrally located cities. All Association meetings are open to the public.

Since 1974 the Webb Society has held their annual meeting in conjunction with the TSHA meeting. Webb sessions include chapter reports, the reading of award winning student papers, and the announcement of the C. M. Caldwell Memorial Writing and Chapter Achievement Awards.

A fall conference of the Society is held in late October or early November. In contrast to the Annual Meeting, which is usually held in a major city, the fall meeting is held in a smaller city that is located in an area of historical significance to students of Texas history.

The aforementioned activities are, as indicated, only suggestions. This is the potential; these are some of the possibilities. One of the most important aspects of this program is the free exercise of local administration and control. The Austin office provides only central coordinating and counseling. Each chapter, therefore, is encouraged to develop a program of community studies and involvement that is best suited to individual needs and conditions. By all means, share your successes with the Austin office and with the other Webb chapters. What works well for one chapter might also mean success for a colleague. Let's all communicate.

For an Annual Meeting Planning Guide, see the How-To Section.

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