My experience working on this project was mostly positive. The hardest part was figuring out exactly what this mapping project I wanted to create would entail and encompass. Having always been fascinated by Prohibition and local history, I chose this project as a way to build upon work I did in undergrad in Minnesota. Having some background in the field of what was going on in the Twin Cities helped me in my search for establishments that capitalize on either authentic ties to Prohibition era speakeasies or modern day recreations of speakeasies that still build upon the history of the city.
Initially, when I proposed this project, I had many different ideas in my head- most of which were vastly different from my final project. The chief reason for this being that I realized the projects I was imagining would require far more resources than I had available halfway across the country from most of the archives that would be helpful. However, I also ended up making my project more in line with Digital History and Public History as fields- and less aligned with the old hat standards of the academy. This, I am proud of, as my work still represents scholarly effort and an attempt to encourage others to learn about history. This was my main goal of the project, to get locals to interact more with their history in a way that makes it fun and accessible.
Working within HistoryPin proved to be pretty straightforward and I learned a lot about how useful the platform can be to create meaningful tours and maps of areas that people may think they know, but show them locations they might not have found on their own (literally, most of these locations have somewhat hidden entrances!). The one issue I kept having with HistoryPin was a fault in its loading ability, causing me to pause and reload the page almost every time I went in to edit a pin. However, this may be more of a fault of the wifi in my apartment- which likes to stop working just when I need it most. However, this did not stop me from realizing the many benefits HistoryPin can provide to the Digital History world. For historians, This platform also has a wide variety of then/now type posts that are easy to create and publish. For public historians, it provides an easy way to get direct feedback from the public. By promoting a tour or collection, the public learns about it and then can interact with it so long as they have access to the internet.
Overall, this project taught me a lot about what exactly goes into creating digital scholarship, and how that can still be a fun project. Scholarship itself doesn’t always need to be about documenting the past, in a world engulfed by a pandemic (and even in whatever “normal” we return to after) documenting the present and how people think about places is just as important. This digital project was hard to nail down exactly what it would be, but after settling on a map that would allow locals to hopefully understand not just more about their town but also their state I feel it was the right choice. This finished product will enable many trips to establishments that have real history behind them and others that attract people for the same reasons. Either way, the history of Prohibition and the speakeasy live on and will be appropriately celebrated during their hundredth anniversaries.