As part of the public history practicum course I am a member of the team partnered with the DC History Center. Our team is working with the DC History Center to produce a digital exhibit detailing the history of the Carnegie Library on Mount Vernon Square.
The Carnegie Library building was funded by Andrew Carnegie to house the DC Public Library in 1899 and served as the main library from 1903-1972. The Carnegie library was one of the first buildings in Washington, DC to be non-segregated for public use, welcoming Black and white library patrons equally throughout its many years. Currently, The DC History Center’s headquarters are housed on the second floor of the building, while an Apple store is located on the first floor. The digital exhibit my practicum team is producing for the DC History Center will have multiple components including detailing the architectural history, the social history, and the history of the organizations that have inhabited the building; the DC Public Library, UDC, The DC History Center, and now Apple. I would be interested in taking on a specific component; both out of interest for the topic and project and to ‘double dip’ with the digital project for this course.
This proposed component is a map of public buildings in Washington, DC that feature Guastavino tiles. Guastavino tiles are an intricate architectural process from the Medertaranian adapted and popularized by Raphael Guastavino Sr. and Raphael Guastavino Jr. in the late 1800s and early 1900s. John Ochsendorf’s 2014 article for Structure Magazine, titled “Guastavino Masonry Shells” provides a detailed background of the architectural technique. This feature can be seen in multiple prominent buildings throughout the United States; including Grand Central Station in New York City and St. Paul’s Chapel on the Columbia University campus (pictured bellow). This article from Untapped New York, features 15 of the city’s 200 plus buildings that have this architectural feature.
The Carnegie library building is one of multiple buildings in Washington, DC that feature Guastavino tiles. Our project partners have expressed interest in connecting the Carnegie library building with the other buildings throughout the city, and my proposed map would aim to do that. I plan to create an interactive map of Washington, DC that has pins of the public buildings that have Guastavino tiles. The viewer would then be able to click on a pin and a pop up would provide information to the viewer about the building with an image of that building’s Guastavino tile work, potentially with a link to the building’s website or the organization of the website within. A resource I have identified as a possible platform to create this map is StoryMapsJS from Knight Lab, as I know our team plans to incorporate other Knight Lab resources into the digital exhibit, as they appear to be easy to integrate into WordPress. However, StoryMapsJS may be more linear, going from place to place in a preset order, and less self guided than I hope for the project to be, and thus I may need to look into other software to create this map.
Readings and tools we have examined so far throughout this semester will help to guide this project. Tools that we’ve looked at such as History Pin and Cleveland Historical, that Raphael covered for the class, are wonderful examples of what I am envisioning for this project. Martyn Jessop’s Digital Visualization as a Scholarly Activity, argues that spatial visualization can be useful to digital humanities and can provide an added interactive layer to scholarship that just written text does not. Cameron Blevins “Mining and Mapping the Production of Space” is another convincing example of how interactive digital maps can add to user experience and understanding of topics.
As someone who is incredible directionally challenged and spatially unaware, interactive maps are extremely helpful to me and I think they are a great tool to connect users to the histories of Guastavino tiles and the buildings that house these features throughout the city.