My family is originally from Butte, Montana, a city to this day called the “Richest Hill on Earth.” In its heyday from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, Butte was a booming mining town. Workers pulled tons of gold, silver and other metals from the mines, but the city was especially famous for its rich abundance of copper. In 1920 Butte produced 15% of the world’s copper supply, and beginning in 1941 the city provided the U.S. with 51% of the total copper used for America’s war efforts during WWII (http://www.buttecvb.com/history/). Butte is also home to famous daredevil “Evel” Knievel! After being essentially shut down for nearly three decades, Butte’s mining industry has been resurrected and the city continues to be a global supplier of ore and minerals today.
Although I will probably be sticking with my print project, if I were to do a digital one I would like to create a blog dedicated to analyzing and discussing Butte’s rich history. Butte’s historical significance is fairly well-known even outside of Montana and the western portion of the U.S., but its presence on the web appears to be lacking in several respects. From what I could tell from a little bit of research, not many people are talking about Butte on blogs or other digital media. More importantly, I could not find a blog that was dedicated to a scholarly discussion of Butte’s history or legacy. I think that there is a need for a blog such as the one I am proposing.
I would use WordPress for this project. I would have several posts devoted to various aspects of the city’s history. Topics might include: Butte’s rich and diverse ethnic heritage, the Copper Kings (the men who basically started the mining industry), unionizing efforts, the Anaconda Company (Butte’s largest mining company), the growth of the Berkeley Pit and the destruction of several ethnic towns that it caused, Evel Knievel and his contributions to U.S. culture, open-pit vs. underground mining, and so on and so forth.
My intended audience would be fairly broad, but I would maintain my concentration on offering a scholarly discussion about history. I would ardently strive to foster a thoughtful dialogue and would try to prevent the blog from becoming a venue for people to simply post small snippets of their own experiences in Butte. It would most likely appeal to former and current Butte residents and scholars of history, geology, ecology and anthropology, but I can imagine that people who are interested in the western U.S. would also potentially visit my blog. I personally know people who fall into each of these categories, so I would have them view the blog and evaluate it to see if it met their needs. I would rely on class readings, discussions and practica to help me create the blog and mold it into a useful digital tool, and I would utilize a collection of Butte-related historiography to help provide the historical content. If it evolved as I imagine it, I really think this project could be an effective way of showing this city’s local, regional and national significance.