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Description

Title:Forgottonia
Author(s):McKenzie, Conor; Raso, Payton
Subject(s):History
Geographic Coverage:Illinois
Abstract:This project was created under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Owen, professor of History and the University of Illinois Springfield and Dr. Mary Beth Matthews, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Mary Washington. The project was done in accordance with the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges Fall 2018 class on secessionist movements and religious separatist movements. Over the course of the semester, my partner Conor McKenzie and I (Payton Raso) attended an online class via Zoom with other groups from liberal arts colleges around the country. The purpose of the class was to study the theoretical foundations of secessionist and separatist movements around the world by reading both primary and secondary sources. While this was occurring, the overarching assignment was to build a website that would explore a chosen secessionist movement and contribute to the existing knowledge about that movement. In order to complete this course, we had to find a secessionist movement that would generate enough primary sources for our research and sources that were readily available to us. Given the nature of the internet, we would have access to many sources regarding secessionist or separatist movements from around the world. However, in consultation with Dr. Owen, we decided that we would get more out of the project and in turn create a better final product. Therefore, at the beginning of the semester we scoured the internet for any secessionist movements that were local enough that we would have physical access to primary sources within a short drive of the University of Illinois Springfield campus. After scouring the internet, we landed on a secessionist movement from western Illinois from the 1970s known as Forgottonia. One of the reasons that this movement jumped out to us was the shocking lack of information available on the internet. Other than the Wikipedia page, the only website that bore any reference to the Forgottonia movement at all was a website in a small western Illinois town that sold art. This meant that there was a whole in the available information that our project had the potential to fill. In order to find this information, we had to locate the physical primary sources. After placing emails and phone calls to many county historical societies, we finally located the primary sources at the historical archives located at the library at Western Illinois University. Fortunately, although the movement itself did not garner much attention, the leader of the movement managed to create a cult of personality that would eventually lead to an entire file bearing his name being kept in the Western Illinois Archives. After discovering the existence of the Neal Gamm file, we scheduled a trip to Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. One of the perks of this trip was that it required us to drive through the territory that would have constituted Forgottonia and see first-hand the environmental and infrastructure issues that led directly to the movement. By the time we arrived at the library, we already had a mental image of the territory which would help us to contextualize all of the source material. It was not too much of a stretch to imagine this same territory in the 1970s. After combing through the archival material for two days and driving through western Illinois to gather pictures, we were ready to begin making the website. In order to create the website, we were given a Wordpress domain and full editing powers. Rather than splitting up the work, we made sure to sit down together and create the website in the same room. This allowed us to write and create in a way that made for a consistent final product. What resulted was a website that compiled our archival research on the Forgottonia movement and its leader Neal Gamm. This website, as far as we can tell, is one of the most comprehensive narratives created about the Forgottonia movement in the 1970s. We pooled quotes and pictures, eventually coming to the conclusion that the Forgottonia movement was a performative secession in order to rouse public support for more infrastructure funding. Neal Gamm and his peers were successful in garnering that support and the movement made newspapers nationwide. We hope you sincerely enjoy discovering the land of Forgottonia.
Issue Date:2019
Genre:website
Type:Other
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/103595
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-04-22


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