Library of Congress awards MTSU $43k grant to study Tennessee’s role in WWII

Kira Duke, education specialist at Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Historic Preservation, holds a Library of Congress digital collection photo of Tennessee women working on a WWII “Vengeance” dive bomber, at the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Oct. 13, 2021. MTSU’s center recently landed a $43,000 Library of Congress grant for a research project centered around the impact of WWII on Tennesseans. (PHOTO CREDIT: Andy Heidt for MTSU)

STATE NEWS | Murfreesboro —Tennessee played a significant role in World War II. Over 300,000 men from all parts of the state served in the American armed forces during the war and six Tennesseans were later decorated with the nation’s highest award for valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Locally, General George S. Patton refined his innovative tactics for the aggressive use of tanks that was to become his hallmark, according to the state archives. Thousands of men were trained at Camp Forrest near Tullahoma.

The Library of Congress recently awarded the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Center for Historical Preservation a $43,000 grants for WWII on Tennessee Homefront research to continue to study the state’s impact on the U.S.’s second world war from Camp Forrest Training Camps to the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge and beyond.

Kira Duke and her colleagues at the center continually work on research projects to further understand that rich history, and the center’s overall work plays an important role in helping communities preserve and share their stories with a wider audience.

“Our goal (using this grant) is to create a comprehensive, primary source-centered curriculum on World War II’s impact on the Tennessee Homefront that can be used in fifth grade, high school and U.S. history survey undergraduate classes,” she said.

Duke’s passion for the past followed her from her hometown in Chestnut Mount, Tennessee, through her graduate history degree at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to her work at the center, which she began in 2010.

“My work, funded through the Library of Congress, educates K-12 teachers on best practices for using primary sources in the classroom, focusing on accessing sources from the Library of Congress digital collections,” Duke said.

Local educators and administrators can access the wide range of professional development programs and educational materials offered by the center’s program on its website

“Our communities have such a rich history, and it is important that we help tell those stories,” said Duke, explaining that the center relies on external funding support for much of its work.

“These (funds) provide opportunities to work on really interesting projects and provide our graduate assistants with amazing opportunities. Each of these projects is built on a partnership, which can then present future opportunities for the center.”

Carroll Van West, the center’s director, said that staff are always looking for ways to develop resources that will help build community educators’ command of primary sources for key periods in state and national history.

“The recent creation of the Manhattan Project National Historic Site at Oak Ridge was another reason to shine more light on Tennessee’s local and national stories during World War II,” West said.

Additionally, the center will use this research to collaborate with the National Park Service on a World War II on the Homefront book that will be sold at parks across the country.

Showcasing how MTSU works with public agencies and nonprofit organizations is a key part of the center’s mission, West said.

“These projects not only enhance education and economic opportunities in Tennessee, they allow us to provide significant, hands-on professional experiences for MTSU students who are heavily involved in all of these projects.”

To keep up with the Center for Historic Preservations’ work and educational opportunities, visit, the center’s Facebook page, the center’s Instagramand the center’s blog Southern Rambles. •

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