Today I spent a bit of time reading for my Curry paper. Two books that I ordered through interlibrary loan came in recent days, and I was eager to check them out. The first to come was The University of Wisconsin: A History, Volume III Politics, Depression, and War by David E. Cronon and John W. Jenkins and A Centennial History: A History of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin by John W. Jenkins. These books are vital for my project, as I want to focus on how Curry’s work related to the Wisconsin Idea and the College of Agriculture.
The thing that struck me most about my reading today was the irony involved in Curry’s coming to Madison. The depression started early for American farmers, and , just as in the rest of the country, it would not end until WWII. One might think that 1936 would be an unlikely time to bring an artist in residence to the College of Agriculture. The circumstances that led to the decision will be important to my research.
The other irony about Curry’s position is the tension between the reason he was brought to Madison, and the ways in which the University was changing the rural economy. Curry was brought to the state to foster a rural culture. Dean Chris Christensen thought that a farmer should have just as much access to the arts as urban people did. He wanted to put as stop to the hemorrhage of rural people into cities. The irony is that the scientific advancements being made at the University were hastening the decline of rural life.
Based on my reading today, I will have to look into sources on agricultural history and rural culture. I’ll want to position the College of Agriculture in context with the history of agriculture and higher education of the times. I’ll also want to seek out work on rural culture at the time to see how the Dean Christensen’s goals aligned with reality.