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Virginia History Day 2018: Coordinator's Corner

Follow along with Christina Vida, the Virginia History Day Coordinator, as she works on her own 2018 Virginia History Day project!

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October 10, 2017

October 30, 2017

December 19, 2017

Christina Vidas 2018 Virginia History Day Project

December 19, 2017

It might be the holidays, but Virginia History Day research season is also upon us!

I have spent November and part of December casting my net wide for primary and secondary sources related to the War Revenue Act of 1917, the congressional hearings that led to the charitable contribution tax deduction, and those who opposed it. The Library of Virginia’s online resources, JSTOR, Library of Congress, Google Books, and America’s Historical Newspapers have proved extremely useful. It is now clear from the primary sources that the impetus for the deduction was to encourage donations to college and universities. These institutions were taking a double-hit to their bank accounts from declining enrollment as young men enlisted in World War I as well as shifts in philanthropic donations to Liberty bonds and other charities that directly supported the war effort.

Photograph of papers and laptop in the Virginia Historical Society's Reading RoomI also spent time in the Research Library of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture reading the 1920’s tax returns of one particular couple (Alexander and Virginia Weddell) who donated their home to the Virginia Historical Society in 1929. The Weddells claimed large deductions for contributions to colleges and direct aid organizations. What is intriguing is that I have yet to find a record of them claiming monetary contributions to the society! I’ve also been working on capturing interviews with fundraising professionals who can speak to the long-term impact of the charitable contribution tax deduction. On December 14th, I had the pleasure of interviewing the museum’s retiring Vice President of Advancement, Pam Seay, who has been with the organization for thirty years. I’m trying to get more interviews on the books for January.

Because I’ll be creating a documentary, I’ve also sketched out an outline for my 10 minutes:  

  • introduction into title (30 seconds),

  • background on WWI tax credit from 1914 to 1917 including war footage (2-3 minutes),

  • the conflict and compromise surrounding the War Revenue Act in 1917 (3-4 minutes),

  • the impact of the deduction in the short term and long term (2.5 minutes), and

  • conclusion and credits (30 seconds).

The work continues! Stay tuned for more updates in 2018. Have questions? Reach out to me at cvida@vahistorical.org

October 30, 2017

Photograph of Lee House from the LOC HABS collectionIt’s almost November and, after floundering a bit to narrow my scope, I just settled on a WWI topic. I was initially taken by the historical society-related story of the Charles Hoffbauer Memorial Military Murals, which he painted in Richmond’s “Battle Abbey” between 1914 and 1920, with a long pause while he was fighting for France during the Great War. However, I couldn’t come up with a solid way to connect his participation in WWI to the Conflict and Compromise theme without getting too involved in today’s political landscape. I completed the 4C’s handout from NHD to collect my thoughts and, in the end, needed to move on. 

So then I zoomed out from Virginia Historical Society and briefly explored a couple other possibilities. First, the conflict and compromise around the design of the Virginia War Memorial Carillon in Byrd Park in Richmond, but the long-term impact seemed negligible. I then delved into the 1917 condemnation of private property in Norfolk that provided for the creation and expansion of Naval Station Norfolk. While the long-term impact is obvious today, my initial research showed that it was mainly a court battle over land value and not about the Navy’s right to take the land. So, I tabled it all figuring I might go down the path of the rights of women or African Americans during the war. 

Then I attended a staff meeting in which our VP of Advancement noted that World War I was the impetus for the charitable tax deduction! It was included as an amendment to the War Revenue Act of 1917 that hiked the income tax on the country’s highest earners from 15% to 67%. The deduction was as a compromise for the top earners to deduct up to 15% of their taxable income AND for the charitable organizations that relied on their philanthropy, many of which supported the war effort.  Conflict? Yes, between socioeconomic groups and between public and private interests. Compromise? Yes, with long-lasting impact for Virginia institutions including the Virginia Historical Society. And now I’m on to finding informative and evocative primary and second sources! 

October 10, 2017

Photograph of Christina Vida, Virginia Historical Society CoordinatorGreetings! I’m the new Virginia History Day Coordinator at the Virginia Historical Society. I’m focused full-time on making our 2018 Virginia History Day (VHD) the best yet for teachers and students. My sophomore year in high school, in Jacksonville, FL, I participated in the National History Day (NHD) program as part of my world history class. My group exhibit was on Levi’s jeans, and we made it to the state competition in Tallahassee. Alas, that’s the last time I produced my own NDH project, although I’ve been an avid researcher throughout undergrad, graduate school, and almost a decade working in museums.

To get back in the mindset, I’m kicking off our #VHD2018 year by starting my own History Day project. I’ll be keeping you updated on my progress throughout the year, with regular updates on my topic selection, category choice, research, analysis, project construction, bibliography compilation, and process paper writing.

Photograph of Gas Mask on display in the Story of Virginia exhibition. VHS accession number: 1995.28.7_2First up? Topic selection. This year’s theme, Conflict and Compromise in History, is broad enough that I don’t have to choose a single battle or peace treaty. In my three weeks at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, I’ve learned that we have two exhibits opening in 2018 on World War I. It just seems like a natural fit for me to pick a topic revolving around our institutional goals. Because we’re focused on Virginia history, I’ll also narrow my WWI topic to a Virginia story. And, ideally I’ll find a person, group, or event that connects WWI, Virginia, and our institution itself. Our Story of Virginia exhibit doesn’t have a ton of material on WW1, but we do display this gas mask. I think the research library will be a better starting point and that’s next on my list!

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