Public history students make documentary about Battle Lake
A North Dakota State University public history class created a documentary centered around Battle Lake, Minnesota. This film was an assignment for the digital history class taught by Angela Smith, associate professor of history and public history director. The final documentary will be featured at the Fargo Theater on Friday.
The film explores the life of James “Cap” Colehour, who was a Civil War veteran. He settled in Battle Lake and opened a prospect and resort of the Lake. The students were able to work with Jay Johnson, who was the great-grandson of Colehour in order to preserve this history.
Each year, Smith’s digital history class explores a new regional topic. “This semester, Dr. Smith was put in contact with Jay Johnson, who runs the prospect house museum in Battle Lake, Minnesota,” said Ethan Norris-Weber, a double major in history and public history and a student in Smith’s digital history class. This communication led to the class pursuing this story and making the documentary surrounding Battle Lake.
“She was asked if she could preserve that story, so it became the project that she chose for the digital history class,” said Norris-Weber.
The class conducted research throughout Minnesota, most of the research was conducted at the Prospect House. The students in the class took three trips to the Prospect House in order to conduct research. They also conducted research through the Minnesota Historical Society in Saint Paul. “The whole objective of the class is to just create a documentary about the final by the end of the semester,” said Norris-Weber.
The entire class was involved in the making of the documentary. There are between 15-20 students in the class and working on the project. “It’s a whole class collaborative project that works from the beginning of the semester to the end,” said Norris-Weber. They divided the work of the documentary into a three part narrative.
The film focuses on three narratives. These sections include, resort history of the central lakes region of Minnesota, James “Cap” Colehour and the Civil War history and the women of the Colehour family and their significance.
The students made the film and prepared to present it to the community at the end of the semester. “You’re not only just like making a paper and then giving it to your professor, you’re also showing it to an audience and so there’s a little bit more pressure there,” said Norris-Weber.
The film will be presented at the Fargo Theater and is free for the public to attend. At the event, students will premiere the documentary which has a run time of about 35 minutes. They will also conduct a panel where audience members can hear more about the history of Battle Lake, as well as the students’ research process.
The panel will include 3 students and Jay Johnson, who will be there as the guest of honor at the event. NDSU students and community members will be able to learn more about local history, as well as the work of NDSU students. “Not only are you supporting other NDSU students but it’s fun to just go see history that maybe you’ve never heard of before,” said Norris-Weber.
“I think it’s just kinda a fun way to just experience different perspectives that you didn’t think of before, especially if you are from Minnesota,” said Norris-Weber, “to hear a little bit of the history about why people may have started that tradition.”