March 22, 2018

Brian Grubbs | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Educators

Brian Grubbs


Local History & Genealogy Department Manager, Springfield-Greene County Library District, Springfield, MO


MA, Museum Studies, University of Kansas, Lawrence, 2007


Distinguished Achievement in Literature (for Community & Conflict website), Missouri Humanities Council, 2012


Photo ©2016 Shawn G. Henry

Model Digitizer

When Brian Grubbs moved to Springfield, MO, in 2007 so his wife, Erin, could attend graduate school, he found that his own master’s degree in museum studies wasn’t landing him a job. After a few months, Erin spotted a promising listing on the Springfield–Greene County Library District’s website: a position digitizing collections documenting the Civil War in the Ozarks.

“My knowledge and background in museums and archives was a great fit,” Grubbs says. He was hired to work on the project, and it “reshaped my career.”

Under the tutelage of his supervisor, Carol Grimes, Grubbs learned how to put together grant applications to fund the work. The project involved digitizing more than 14,000 pages of primary source material from 22 historical collections across the United States. The result was Community & Conflict (C&C). During the past three years, more than 180 unique users have visited the website daily and viewed nearly 1,200 pages every day.

C&C inspired similar collaborative Civil War digitization projects in other Missouri cities: Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia, and Cape Girardeau.

Based on their experience with C&C, in 2008 Grubbs and Grimes coauthored a planning and development manual for digitization projects. It’s been used by the Missouri State Library (MSL) as a model for digital projects, and it is distributed to libraries that have received Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) digital imaging grants from MSL.

Since then, among other efforts, Grubbs has created the Trans-Mississippi Theater Virtual Museum, which holds records of Civil War events that occurred west of the Mississippi River. Developed in partnership with Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, it includes more than 700 images of civilians, soldiers, and cities from the region and 250 artifacts. Through “points of interaction,” users can listen to audio clips and spin artifacts 360°. In conjunction with his Civil War activities, Grubbs has led numerous Civil War program series, addressing issues of civil rights and race as well.

Grubbs’s latest big digital history venture, in preparation for the 2017 centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I, documents the experiences of Missourians in the war. Grubbs secured $322,910 in LSTA grants to fund Over There: Missouri & the Great War, which contains digitized World War I collections from 28 state institutions, essays by World War I scholars, and military records for the Missouri men and women who served. He’s planning a traveling exhibit for 2016.

For all of these enterprises, Grubbs has created teacher lesson plans. He hopes the sites will steer students, scholars, and lifelong learners toward the physical collections.

“My hope is that combining technology and history will expand the understanding of our shared [experience] and inspire the next generation of historians and caregivers of our nation’s history,” he says. n

This article was published in Library Journal's March 15, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.