My final project was a blog post recounting my history tour of Washington DC which took me through all 8 of the district’s wards. The project was designed to give a deeper understanding of DC history and the diversity of that history. By walking through all 8 wards, I wanted to show how different communities contain their own unique history and to challenge the spatial understanding of the city. Ultimately, the tour is a spectacle, a challenge to overcome, but it also invites engagement. The tour uses public history principles which I honed during my time here at American University. By that, I mean it shows that history can be anywhere; it can be an old apartment complex, a memorial, an unassuming house, or even your local park. It also puts that history into a space the public can actually use. By putting the tour up on the Clio App, it is now accessible to anyone using either the application or the website. While I wonder if anyone else will ever complete the gauntlet of a tour, those who find it interesting could always do a small section or even just read through the sites to understand the history of DC.
Reflecting on what I learned while working on this project is something I had on the front of my mind during the entire walk. I was constantly asking myself, what will I take away from this? The first thing that came to mind was not about the history but the space. Walking through every ward in one day is both jarring and unsurprising. The neighborhoods are wildly different, but in many ways, they are identical. However, how the history is displayed and remembered is very different when comparing communities in the various wards. While other parts of the city had numerous Clio entries, Anacostia had few. Our walk through Anacostia was littered with history, yet much of it is not readily available online, a point I have made known to those who run the app. I also noticed that many of the sites only existed digitally; locations that have great historical significance such as the Williams Slave Pen or the Furies House, both have little to no signage letting the public know what they are. Finally, it also showed just how much history is all around us and how one can design a walk that spans nearly 18 miles and cuts through all 8 wards, yet finding sites to fit this path was easy as history is everywhere.
Overall I really enjoyed both creating this project and walking the tour myself. I got to view the city in an entirely new light and explore neighborhoods I never had. I learned about sites that I may have never realized were in the city, and found sites that I walked past everyday without understanding its history. I think exploring your community and appreciating its history is an amazing way to understand and get a deeper appreciation for the world around us.
One Reply to “Austin Bailey: Reflection”
Hi, Austin! I really enjoyed your project and hearing all about it over the course of the semester. Your project highlights the rich local history in D.C., which is really important since I think the federal history is more emphasized than the local history. I also liked how you tried to highlight history in all wards; I know I tried to do that in my project as well. If you expand this in the future, I could see you creating shorter walking tours, such as a walking tour for each ward or a walking tour of sites in D.C. history from different time periods. While I don’t think I could walk the entire route all at once, your project was a great avenue for people to see the history around them in the nation’s capital.