Christina Vida’s 2018 Virginia History Day Project
October 30, 2017
It’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 VHS-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 VHS 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 VHS 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 VHS. And now I’m on to finding informative and evocative primary and second sources!
Greetings! 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.
First 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 Historical Society, 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 the VHS 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 VHS research library will be a better starting point and that’s next on my list!