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Researching Sister Genevieve Lantz

Student research exhibit “The Record Keeper” on display in Hamersly Library

By: Paige Scofield
Campus Life Editor

The current exhibit in Hamersly Library is one for the books. After four journals that dated back to World War I were donated to Western, student Max Norr, senior social science major with a history focus, got the chance to research them and turn them into an exhibit.

“They’re four journals that belonged to a nurse in World War I, named Sister Genevieve ‘Birdie’ Lantz, and she was from Canada,” explained Norr. “She moved to Boston to study nursing, and then when the war started, she went over to France with a Harvard Surgical Unit. [The journals] weren’t her diaries, she had her patients, from all of the wards that she worked in and managed, she had her patients write in them. So they would write their experiences, they wrote jokes, they wrote stories, they drew pictures, there’s some amazing art.”

“We knew nothing about Sister Lantz, except that her name was Lantz, because she wrote ‘G. Lantz’ in the journals,” said Norr. “The owners of the journals found them at an estate sale or an antique shop, they found these four books, and they were just looking for somebody to research them. So Dr. Jensen was like, ‘hey, this would be a really cool, I think you should research these. I think that we could make a really good practicum for it.’ So that’s what we did.”

“The goal was to create an online blog exhibit, website, type-thing , and I would find certain entries within the books that I wanted to research further, so I did five, and then one extra for Sister Lantz herself,” Norr said passionately. “I found one on the 1914 Christmas Truce, I did an exhibit on all the art that was in the books, one on propaganda and one on neutrality, and a few other ones. It was amazing because no one had ever seen them before. Nobody had ever researched these, it was all new information, all new material. So it was just me using Ancestry.com, corresponding with other researchers, I’ve talked to people in Australia, Canada, Britain, all these different people, I scoured newspapers for information about the Harvard Surgical Unit. No one knew about this stuff.”

After countless hours of research Norr created a blog called “The Record Keeper,” which you can visit at www.record-keeper.blogspot.com. The journals themselves were found in Klamath Falls, Oregon at an estate sale for one of Sister Lantz’s grandson or son’s home.

“She died in the mid-1960s, so she’s been gone for a while, but it was right here in Oregon. So that’s what’s really cool, we got to make that connection,” said Norr. “She came all the way from Canada, and France from all these different places and her journals ended up in Oregon.”

The exhibit will continue to be in Hamersly Library until summer break begins.

Contact the author at journalcampuslife@wou.edu