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Constitution Writing in the American West (NEH)

This collection charts constitution-writing in the American West, encompassing five of the state constitutional conventions that took place in 1889. Our cutting-edge visualisations allow users a more thorough understanding of the context within which key decisions were made, the origins of certain constitutional provisions, and how the negotiations were structured. The collection was made possible by a generous Digital Advancement Grant from the National Endowment For the Humanities.

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Unlike the Federal Convention, the records of the state constitutional conventions of the US have been little studied and analysed. These states in particular—North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming and Idaho—were chosen for the project because they are still in effect today (albeit in amended forms). They shed light on a particular moment in state constitutional history, when the territories of the American West were vying for statehood. Four of them began on the 4th of July, with Wyoming’s constitutional convention commencing at the beginning of September. These digital models were predominantly constructed using the official Convention records, with supplementary sources such as newspapers consulted to fill in gaps in the record. Scans of all of these materials, including many boxes worth of state archival material that has not been previously digitised, have been incorporated into the model as ‘resource collections’. The full collection was published in September 2023. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the web resources generated by this project, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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