Digital Project Reflection: Mapping Access to Abortion in D.C.

Hi, pals! My website and the accompanying map are officially finished (for now at least), and can be found here. You can take a look at my conference poster below.

I really enjoyed working on this project throughout the semester, and I found it to be a fun practice in seeing how digital history and public history can intersect. Access to abortion is something I’m very passionate about, and I believe my project is uniquely served by being on a digital platform. Perhaps the most valuable part of my project is the crowdsourcing aspect – I seek to involve women who have had abortions in D.C. to share their stories to help fill out the map and, more importantly, work towards normalizing abortion. This ability to have community input would be close to impossible if this was not a digital project, and I believe its being digital allows me to call it a true public history effort.

That said, the crowdsourcing aspect of my project is also currently the least developed. Filling out the map and building the website took significantly more time than I expected, and coupled with stressful times due to COVID, I was unable to fully explore how I might publicize this project to gain community input. I do hope to continue this effort in the future, posting the website on my own social media accounts, and asking my friends who agree to do the same. I may also reach out to local organizations like the D.C. Abortion Fund and women’s advocacy groups to see if their networks feel comfortable in participating. I think this will be very important for a few reasons. First of all, I continued to find it difficult to locate addresses to abortion clinics from the 80s to the early 2000s. Practically, community members could help me nail these down. Next, I don’t want this project to be mine alone; I want it to be helpful to community members, and be a place where they feel safe sharing their abortion stories. Finally, I believe the more voices there are on the site, the closer we may be to normalizing abortion in the District. While D.C. has historically been a very liberal city with far more clinics than other places throughout the nation, I hope my project makes clear that access and secrecy can still be issues surrounding abortion.

I expressed some concerns in my previous post about my source data and issues that my audience might face when interpreting my map. I was really unsure what to do about this, but it turned out to be a valuable learning moment. Based upon Trevor’s advice and after doing our readings on openness theory, I decided to simply be clear about my struggles and the struggles visitors to my website might face; this actually just became another way for my project to embrace openness. I think the fact that this never even occurred to me as an option is indicative of being entrenched in academia. I’m so used to doing “traditional” academic work (which is basically only ever seen by those within the academic community), that I never thought to admit fault and let that be an opportunity for greater interaction.

I thus see my project as a culmination of a lot of things we discussed this semester. I hope that in creating this digital project, I embraced openness theory, practiced responsible public history, and maybeeeee helped put a few dents in the ivory tower.

It’s been such a pleasure working with and learning from you all this semester! Stay well!

4 Replies to “Digital Project Reflection: Mapping Access to Abortion in D.C.”

  1. Jenna,

    This looks AWESOME. I am so impressed not only with the information that you compiled, but the lovingly-crafted community contribution aspects to the website. It is a beautiful example of shared authority in public history. I hope that this can be a tool for women in the DC area and beyond! You should be so proud!

  2. Jenna, your project is fantastic! I love how minimalistic/clean the website looks, how user-friendly it is, and how the project is largely predicated on community co-curation. Not only is this project so significant and ever-timely, it also utilizes a community-led/engaged methodology that I know is super important to you and a whole new generation of public historians/activist historians. I’m so excited to see how this project develops (if you continue to pursue it) and can imagine several institutions within the D.C. area that would be interested in utilizing this tool. Awesome job!

  3. Jenna, what an awesome project! I love how open you are and that you’ve offered different ways to interact and contribute to the site, and made it clear that it was a community space. I’m excited to see how your project evolves as more people engage with it!

  4. Great to see how this project came together! The site looks really polished and the map has a lot of valuable information in it. This is a really significant topic and the site design and style fits well with significance of your topic. Agreed that there is a lot of potential for the crowdsourcing and community engagement parts of your concept. It’s really hard to launch the technical side of things and stand up that kind of programatic outreach work for a project, so it makes sense that isn’t fully realized in the course of a semester but you’ve done a great job laying the groundwork for how that can work in the site. Great work!

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