The Middle East has long been a complex and difficult concept to understand. It has had a extraordinarily turbulent past, chock full of land and religious conflicts, extending back at least two thousand years. This topic can be challenging for students and even adults to understand and visualize. We have heard about Middle Eastern conflicts in the news and in the history books but there have been rare opportunities to visualize the space in which these conflicts occur.
I propose a digital project which will focus on the Middle Eastern conflict during a small window of time, 1977 to 1982 (The years of Jimmy Carter’s Presidency). I will create an interactive map which will help high school age students understand, visualize, and interact with events in the Middle East. Since there were so many contested areas and spaces within the region, creating an interactive map would be quite helpful. I was inspired by the Cameron Blevins Houston mapping project, Mining and Mapping the Production of Space: A View of the World From Houston. The concept of visualizing a space to better understand its history is a compelling idea that I hope will carry through this project.
Project Description and Comparative Project
In order to bring this project to life I hope to use a website called Story Maps. This is a fascinating tool which encourages users to harness the power of maps to tell a story. The service allows you to use a background map and then move through the map in a similar fashion to a prezi. It allows you to embed photographs, text captions, videos, and even audio files to help curate and tell a story. It boasts the fact that you can pull from Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Dailymotion, Google Maps, Wikipedia, SoundCloud, Document Cloud among other sites. This allows for fantastic integration of various sources.
There is a really great example from the Washington Post which used this service to explain the way Isis is currently carving out a new country for itself. It created a map where you can click through text, photos, and videos. It is really cool and you can check it out here! My goal is to come up with something similar to this. I will use these tools to set the background for the conflict in the Middle East in the lead-up to the Camp David Accords which were signed by Israel and Egypt in 1979. I hope that I can highlight locations such as the Gaza Strip, to tell the story of how the Camp David Accords came about.
Why Should This be Digital?
Space is hard to conceptualize in the context of history. Maps are great tools to help people understand this. Also, the Middle East is a difficult place to visit. This would allow people to learn about physical space without actually being present.
Audience, Publicity, and Outreach
I came up with the idea for this project because of the current research I am doing for my Public History Practicum class. For that class we are working with NPR and their archives of All Things Considered to curate a playlist of content related to their news coverage of the Camp David Accords. This final project will be used by students working on projects for National History Day. In doing my research for that project I got sucked in by trying to figure out the why of it all and kept coming back to how Middle East events culminated in the Camp David Accords. I think this has the potential to be a fascinating companion project that could be added as related link to this other project. I hope that it will also be useful to NPR and that they will include it as a link on the National History Day website. That is the ultimate goal. I also hope they will possibly allow me to embed pieces of audio from All Things Considered into this map!