The Society for the Study of Local and Regional History (SSLRH) held its inaugural conference, "Servants of the Land," on December 8, 1990. This non-profit organization was formed to promote the study, preservation, and perpetuation of southwestern Minnesota's cultural, ethnic, historical, and religious heritages. Through its publications and conferences devoted to new themes and approaches to contemporary rural life, the SSLRH demonstrates that this region and its people are worthy of study and reflection. The mission of the SSLRH is to study, interpret, and disseminate fresh insights into the past and present rural life in southwestern Minnesota and the Great Plains. In addition, by focusing on regional policy makers and opinion setters, the Society endevors to connect local and national scholars with local and regional audiences.
The SSLRH office is housed in the Southwest Minnesota Regional Research Center at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota. Governed by a Board of Trustees and organizational officers, the SSLRH works in collaboration with the staff of the Center for Rural and Regional Studies and the Southwest Minnesota Regional Research Center.
In 1990, two historians, Joseph Amato and Thaddeus Radzilowski, along with tthe coordinator of the Southwest Minnesota Regional Research Center, Jan Louwagie, and other interested individuals, formed a non-profit regional history society. In accord with Southwest Minnesota State University's commitment to Rural and Regional Studies, the originators envisioned a local society that would create and disseminate information on the history of southwestern Minnesota and the Great Plains, utilizing recent literature and theories from history and other social sciences. SSLRH leaders attempted to expand the Society's mission to the region. This collaboration has demonstrated how a local historical society, in conjunction with a regional history center and a university program, can redefine a region.
The SSLRH has been responsible for sponsoring two essay series. The first essay series began in 1990. In 1990, the Southwest Minnesota State University History Department Faculty who taught Senior Seminar decided to concentrate on the history of the region. Since the University had developed a Rural Studies Program in the late 1970's, it was a logical transition to encourage students to focus on a topic of local and regional interest. The best of the senior essays were copyedited and prepared for printing. This first series of essays was entitled The Historical Essays on Rural Life Series.
The initial series evolved from exclusively student-developed essays to include writings from regional and national scholars. The Rural and Regional Essay Series is a companion series and successor to the Historical Essays on Rural Life. Its goal is the publication of essays that offer distinct insight into rural and regional affairs. The series is governed by an editorial board, which accepts innovative writings on rural and regional subjects.
To date, the SSLRH has published twenty-five essays, assisted in the publication of nine books, and was instrumental in the production of a video documentary. The two most recent additions to the essay series include Minnesota Real and Imagined and Pipestone and the Red Rock. The most recent book that the SSLRH has helped to publish is Draining the Great Oasis: An Environmental History of Murray County, Minnesota. The motivation behind the essay series is now based in the Center for Rural and Regional Studies at SMSU and in the Society for the Study of Local and Regional History.
Hosting major conferences continues to be an important goal for the SSLRH. The Society for the Study of Local and Regional History has contributed to or sponsored approximately a dozen conferences and 23 speakers since 1990. Focusing on regional topics, these events addressed the needs of the area and boasted cumulative audience totals exceeding 3,500. On October 25, 2001, Draining the Great Oasis: A Colloquium on Environmental History was presented with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Humanities Commission. The annual meeting of the SSLRH was held in conjunction with the conference Rethinking Home: A Case for Local History on October 3, 2002. Another conference, A Place Called Home: A Conference on the Contmporary Midwestern Small Town was held on October 2, 2003. An upcoming conference to be held on November 4, 2004, "Rivers of History: The Minnesota and the Mississippi", features two presenters: John Anfinson, PhD, The Farmers' River: Agriculture and the Mississippi, and Anthony Amato, PhD, The Flow of History: Rivers, the Past, and the Present.
The SSLRH continues to seek out and encourage people who will add to
the pool of knowledge about the region by researching and writing quality
essays for publication or giving lectures and presentations on topics
of regional interest. The SSLRH has proven that it has the ability to
produce unique and valuable materials.
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Society for the Study of Local and Regional
Social Science 141
Southwest Minnesota State University
1501 State Street
Marshall, MN 56258
Last Updated: November 19, 2003