Digital Project Proposal- Exploring Civil War Battlefields

I got thinking about this idea after talking with my parents, they wanted me to go with them to Gettysburg national park during spring break this year. Our family took a trip to Gettysburg many years ago and one thing I remember was getting a case of CD-ROMs that could be put into a computer to show different parts of the battle. I don’t think we ever actually got it to work but the basic idea came back to me recently. I think it would be very interesting to move through this space and see the events as they happened.

Trying to picture this in my head I am thinking of something like Google Earth or the Google Maps street view function. I want to give people the ability to zoom in and out and move from one area of the battle to another. By zooming out, viewers could see the movement of large units from a birds eye view. Then by zooming in closer using the street view perspective, one could clearly see the different terrain features in front of the different armies. Since these armies contained regiments from a variety of states, users could search for one particular regiment or other unit and see its progress and other statistics and historical data from the program.

Obviously the basic concept of this idea has already been conceived by the good folks working for the park service but its possible that they could use an update. Also, although I am thinking in terms of the major battlefield sites like Gettysburg, it could be interesting to try and make the tools to build one of these battlefield maps open source. It would allow people who live on or near the sites of different battles to create their own interactive map and submit it to a larger website for visitors to explore.

One Reply to “Digital Project Proposal- Exploring Civil War Battlefields”

  1. Hi John,

    Exploring civil war battle fields through a mapping project sounds like a promising concept. For the kind of zooming in and out that you are interested in doing, I think you could potentially make something with either the Historypin Platform or with StoryMaps. As you noted, you could also make something like this using Google Maps, which allows you to annotate your own custom map too.

    If you were to run with this as a project, I think it would be good to think through a bit of how you would scope it. Like you could do this on one individual battlefield and get more into it’s history and context, or you could create something that has information on a lot of different battlefields. As you think about that, it would also be good to think through who you imagine your audience to be and what kind of outreach you would need to do to connect with them. For example, I could imagine something like this that is tailored to classroom teachers and K-12 students, or to general visitors to one of these sites, or to some of the more in the weeds history buffs on the civil war. In each of those cases, I think the kind of resource you would develop and how you would focus it would end up being informed by what you think your specific audience would need.

    Altogether, this is a solid start to an interesting project.

    Best, Trevor

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