Graduate Student Ben Wallace Digitizes the Cold War

Students, faculty, staff, community members and Nixon enthusiasts filled the chairs on the forth floor of Alden Library Monday, May 15, 2012 as Ben Wallace, a master candidate in diplomatic  history,  spoke about his research on the American Committee on East-West Accord (ACEWA), a public education organization begun under Richard Nixon.

Wallace was selected to speak as a part of the Graduate Research Series @ Alden, which awards outstanding graduate students a convenient yet distinguished opportunity to present their original research, and to help other graduate students learn about the various processes and types of research available to them. Presenting for the research series is an honor given only to the most deserving students. The generosity of donors provides the student speakers with a $200 honorarium.

“The Graduate Research Series (GRS) selection committee chose Wallace’s presentation proposal because [we] felt that it best reflected issues that many graduate students face when conducting research using primary source documents in both digital and paper formats, including how technology can aid the research process but also present challenges,” said Diana Nichols, subject librarian of journalism and a member of the GRS committee.

“We felt that he had the right balance of a specific topic combined with use of library resources,” added Lorraine Wochna, instruction coordinator and fellow member of GRS.

Wallace’s research compared the work of the ACEWA with its rival foreign policy group, the Committee on the Present Danger, Wallace argues that efforts to improve the US-Soviet relationship lost support in the United States. Historians have always paid a lot of attention to the critics of detente — mostly neoconservatives and the Ronald Reagan wing of the Republican Party.

“I wanted to write about public figures [that] supported détente, and I found some,” explained Wallace. “The American Committee on East-West Accord (ACEWA) was a group of prominent Americans who supported US-Soviet trade, arms control, and scientific and cultural exchanges. They were also advocates of a more restrained, less confrontational public discourse on the Soviet Union.”

For his research, Wallace visited three different archives: the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, the Mudd Archives at Princeton, and the JFK Presidential Library in Boston. He studied primary source material such as copies of ACEWA’s newsletters, published statements and television appearances of its members. The large undertaking provided Wallace with a wealth of knowledge about his topic and the research process in general.

“This turned out to be a much larger project than I imagined in terms of the primary source material. Integrating and organizing everything has been difficult, and hopefully if I share some of these problems with young researchers they can avoid some of the mistakes that I made,” said Wallace.

Wallace was born in Reno, NV, and raised in Columbus, OH. He graduated from Shepherd University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in the history focusing on the American Civil War and 19th Century America. Currently Wallace is working toward his MA in diplomatic history here at Ohio University.

Ben Wallace, a master’s student in diplomatic history, was the second speaker in the Graduate Student Research Series at Alden Library on Tuesday afternoon, May 15, 2012. Wallace spoke about his research process and findings related to the American Committee on East-West Accord (ACEWA), the Committee on the Present Danger and their respective involvements during the Cold War Era U.S.-Soviet Union relationships.

Photo by Pat Traylor