Digital Project Reflection: Prohibition Maps in Minnesota

Links to Final Tours: Prohibition in Minnesota and Prohibition in the Twin Cities, MN

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.

Communication and Conversations Might Just Save Academic Publishing

At least these are just two overarching suggestions by Kathleen Fitzpatrick in Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. She looks at 5 specific parts of the publication process within the academy: peer review, authorship, texts, preservation, and the university. As each chapter builds on the last, she also advocates for broader collaboration between scholars as they write.

Just to interject for a second because I know these made me smile in past posts as well, hope everyone is doing well. So far I have knitted (yes, knitted) three little succulents and I thought they might bring you a smile, so check out the photo. Times are still confusing and changing every day, and if you want to chat please don’t hesitate to contact me. Always happy to talk, whether its about nothing particular or your crazy theories about the Harry Potter fandom.

Headphones for scale

Her first chapter discusses the long held peer review process for written works, and offers her recommendations for overcoming the challenges of that outdated process. One of the challenges within this is the acceptance that reviewers will remain anonymous, but then cloud their expertise on the field and why certain comments might be made. Fitzpatrick makes a marvelous argument for peer-to-peer review instead. She highlights that with blind review processes, comments about a specific passage may only come from one passage, and hide whether the problem is as large as that one anonymous person believed it to be or not. However, with community review by peers, they may all congregate behind one comment with suggestions for change. This is helpful in many circles as it reveals a broader sense of what one problem is really causing throughout a work rather than just receiving contradicting comments from separate anonymous reviewers. This collaboration is only the beginning of Fitzpatrick’s proposed changes to the current publishing process in academia.

Comments that build upon one another, like these hands do, help more than one lone comment on a work that might lack context.

Her second chapter, discusses the issues she sees surrounding the concept of authorship in dealing with publication. Primarily she focuses on the issues of creating anxiety rather than creating work throughout this chapter, as many authors struggle with writing practices that are outdated in the same manner that peer review is. To get at this she begins to examine the benefits of digital publishing—the fact that comments, versions, and linking can all happen in a changeable universe unlike what is possible with print books. Her point about maintaining different versions of the same text in order to understand what was removed or added to help readers understand the text as a process, rather than only as a finished project was particularly interesting. 

From this chapter she moves onto her third chapter dealing directly with the text itself. Here she leans more into the idea  that reading is a social activity, the fact of sharing books and discussing books and other written works has always existed—digital publishing would just make it easier to see all at once. However, this is already being accomplished on many websites that fill this need. Her next chapter deals with the issue of preserving network based publications, particularly the texts that are created through them. While preserving a bound book is one thing, making sure that digital creations last and survive to be accessed decades down the line is another issue entirely. Fitzpatrick highlights Kirschenbaum’s work when explaining that even once deleted, traces of a digital creation can still be found years later. One of the largest issues with creating something digital, is ensuring that it will both be accessible and that it will survive long enough to be accessed. The challenge of preserving and creating digital objects into the future is not one that Fitzpatrick fully answers, but she does acknowledge that these will require significant amounts of labor. 

Her last chapter deals directly with the university and the many issues of funding university presses and typical scholarly publication processes. Here again, she brings up the idea of collaboration through a consortium of presses to enable multiple universities to use them. The most radical idea she brings up the is the idea that universities must focus on publishing faculty’s work and making that work available publicly. This will help after the aforementioned changes to create a more collaborative environment in general for publication and scholars.

While Fitzpatrick by no means answers all her questions, or says that the answers she does give are the only answer to the issues she discusses, her overall message appears to be one of encouraged collaboration between scholars, peer networks, and the academy itself to create lasting, impressionable work for the field. To end, I want to pose some of the questions she tackled to our class to see if the comments can foster a discussion and maybe lead to some answers we as a group land on. If we begin by publishing work digitally, what do you see as the issues with the switch being accepted widely in academia? With that, what problems do you see to the peer-to-peer review instead of traditionally blind peer reviews? What does it mean to “preserve” a digital project in a way that makes it accessible? I guess after reading I’m still thinking through these questions, and look forward to reading your thoughts on them.

Digital Project: Prohibition Tour of Minnesota Speakeasy Bars

I have successfully created a historypin for this project, and have started to populate it with some of the images and locations I want to use in a tour. Currently I have 9 pins, a few of which are extra and aligned to demonstrate the actual history held by certain locations on the map. My plan moving forward is to have a total of 10-15 restaurants/bars, and find a relevant newspaper clipping to attach to establishments that have document ties to a former speakeasy. Once those have been compiled, I will create a tour using the locations of establishments.

This will create a piece of interactive history for the community seeking to learn more about this event that took the country by storm over 100 years ago, and give them something to have visiting family do. While the pins will highlight restaurants and bars that have a speakeasy theme, or places that offer tours of speakeasy era Twin Cities, the comments with each seeks to understand what can be learned from each location. As a public historian, I believe that making history fun does not have to detract from the value of learning it. This project accomplishes that digitally.

This map will marry the reality of bars that commodify the history of the era through their food and drink with the newspaper documentation of various arrests and busts in the Twin Cities during the 1920s. By creating this digital resource it will allow local history buffs to learn more about specific locations history, and discover the history of the area that might have inspired many of the themed bars and restaurants.

The challenges I’ve been experiencing with this project are how to narrow this down into a concise package that is doable with digital access to resources. Additionally, some of them are quite spread out, but still a day trips distance from the Twin Cities to help any potential out of state visitors figure out where else they might want to go for a vacation or help locals discover other areas in the state. Aside from that, I have also spent time crafting the inclusion of current establishments into this to give it a more interactive feel fro guests that might want to learn more about the state and its ties to the landmark event of 100 years ago.

I’d love to hear suggestions for locations or revisions from you, please don’t hesitate to drop me a comment!

Audacity 101

Here is their homepage

Audacity is a free to download sound editing software. I have used it previously for sound design projects in undergrad, but it also has many useful tools for budding digital historians. Essentially, it allows you to clip audio, rearrange those clips, record sound, clean up said audio, and much more. For theater it was an incredibly useful tool, and we were required to do many projects with it in my undergrad (unfortunately for you, I deleted all the files after my classes ended and have none to share with you). It is supported on most operating systems and downloaded very quickly onto my laptop.

Fun fact, Audacity is currently not supported on macOS Catalina. They discuss this on their website and in a post linked to the statement on their homepage, explain that this is due to Apple’s change in application restrictions and that they are working to catch up with the requirements for “notarization” for their next release. There is also a workaround that does allow Audacity to open and be used on a Mac running Catalina, and having tested it, it works and the instructions they provided were easy to follow.

Note the sentence in red, which unfortunately confirms that my laptop will not work with the most up to date version- without a workaround.

After getting the app up and running on my laptop, it was very easy to drop in a song from my computer and start working with it. Cutting and pasting works just like in a word document, so you can literally cut the audio up into chunks and use them as need be. They can also be moved very easily around the mixing area. You can label your sounds as you need to and even change which direction the sounds will come from if you have directional speakers that the sound will come out of. There is also a very long list of effects that can be added to the sound itself, and Audacity will record sound within itself if you do not want to upload a track into the app. There are a few different options to save your file once you have reached that point as well, it can be saved within Audacity, exported as an MP3 (or other file types), saved as a compressed file, or saved as a “lossless” file as well. 

Unlike SoundCloud, Audacity is not a community of people utilizing a platform to share audio, but it can be very useful in its own way. Audacity can also be used for many more complicated tasks, that I hadn’t thought of before exploring the tab on their website that discussed their Frequently Asked Questions and looked at the plug-ins that can be used with the software itself. They also have a section where they discuss the accessibility features of the application like that it can be operated with just a keyboard or through voice software as well. These features struck me as very forward thinking of the design team, especially for software that is free for everyone to use as they need.

This software could be used for many different things within the public history or digital history world. As a public historian myself, I see it very easily being used to help keep track of oral histories or being used to create a soundscape for an exhibit. The software itself is very user friendly and accessible, and for tasks beyond the everyday splicing and dicing of audio, there are YouTube videos and support communities to discuss those. Overall, I think it’s a useful software and even more impressive for the fact that its free. It has many incredibly helpful features to work with audio, and with some work it becomes almost second nature to use and work within.

Mapping the Prohibition Debate/Denial in Minnesota

This digital project will take its users from the passing of the Volstead Act and the Minnesota museum named after its senator all the way to the repeal of the 18th amendment, and subsequent passing of the 21stamendment to the Constitution. Utilizing historypin, to create a map that can be accessed and moved by a community; I propose to create something that will take visitors through the varied opinions surrounding prohibition in Senator Volstead’s home state.

The debates that flew around Minnesota before the passage of the Volstead Act bear re-visiting in the 100thanniversary of the year of its passing—similar to the many events celebrating the passage of the 19thamendment, the passage of the 18th amendment bears revisiting. Prohibition was a national experiment that had a lasting impact on the morality laws within the United States. It was the first state intervention into daily life of citizens on a national scale, and its lack of success speaks more to the attitude of the country rather than the lack of agents willing to support the amendment and its stipulations.

The journey of Prohibition within Minnesota is particularly interesting, as it represents a microcosm of events happening across the country. More interesting, is the reputation gained by St. Paul as a “crooks haven” for criminals avoiding the FBI, which increased the likelihood of speakeasies. The dichotomy present between those in the state who advocated strongly for Prohibition and the crooks who strode through the state capital creates a fascinating history to explore, and fits with the hundredth anniversary of Prohibition’s enactment. This interactive map will seek to map out important events across the state, involving Senator Volstead and Prohibition busts, but will also seek to highlight events within the Twin Cities. 

By creating a historypin, this project could seek to engage with Minnesotans who know more about their local history than the newspapers alone can tell. While newspapers will repot upon busts during Prohibition, they may not tell the whole story. Also, there are many robust county historical societies within Minnesota that could contribute to this map with linkable items from digitized collections. Prohibition is an event that has been studied by many, and there are a few organizations in the Twin Cities of Minnesota that already capitalize on their local history. This project seeks to make that history more accessible to those outside the state and maybe encourage visits to the many bars and restaurants that have speakeasy themes. Furthermore, this project seeks to establish just how much alcohol was illegally created in Minnesota during Prohibition despite the strong sentiment for Prohibition.