21st Century Confederate Monument Project Poster and Reflections

Hi everyone,

For starters, here is my project poster:

you can download my poster below!

I learned a lot this semester. It taught me the powers and dangers of the internet when it comes to history, something I had never fully considered before this class. I also appreciated the various practicums we used throughout the course. I would have struggled to find all of these tools on my own, and watching y’all demo them made me feel very comfortable with even the most finicky and difficult software (looking at you, Aris). Lastly, our discussions often inspired me or challenged me to be more critical or to explore the depth of history on the web, which helped me grow as both as a historian and as a person.

When I decided to pursue a digital project, I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I knew I wanted to build an interactive map because I feel participatory engagement is crucial to learning in the digital realm, but otherwise I was starting from scratch. When I landed on ArcGIS StoryMaps, it felt right but definitely daunting.

So, I started to embed myself in my research, scouring various databases and websites for elusive monuments and groups. Once I found a majority of the monuments that fit my criteria, I started to build the map. I had a near disaster when I lost half my points when my site reloaded before I saved (talk about a heart attack) and spent too many hours trying to figure out short cuts and ways to tweak my map so that it would present well.

Once I had a map, the rest of the site sort of wrote itself as I talked about what I was seeing and how that compared to what I was reading about these monuments. I found that these monuments carry on a historical legacy but have some new features about them that set them apart from previous memorials. In the end, it was a fun project and definitely a skill I am glad I learned. I want to keep working with it by updating it as necessary.

This process blended all the reading we finished throughout the semester and taught me how to think creatively and skillfully regarding digital websites and exhibits. As professionals, these skills we’ve practiced throughout the semester will be invaluable as our profession slowly embraces the opportunities the digital world continues to offer those who want to preserve and interpret the past.

Here is my final project, and on a similar note to Amanda’s post, you can follow me on twitter at @joshnreynolds . Congrats on making it to end, y’all

21st Confederate Monuments and Memorials: Commemoration in the Digital Age


Hi everyone! Since my last proposal, I spent a lot of time scouring the internet for locations and details surrounding Confederate monuments and memorials that have been erected since 2000. Since then, I built out a story map page that adds some context surrounding the creation of Confederate monuments and the organizations that are building them.

Here is my map with an item and its description.

I found at least 34 monuments and mapped them here. I focused on including the date they were built, the group that sponsored it, and whether or not it is on public land, because these are all topics I elaborate on after the map on the site. Is there any other information you would like to see within the pins?

Last week, I found potentially 10 more monuments in North Carolina alone that have not been mapped yet, since I wanted to focus on the writing aspect of the site.

I decided to pull images from websites that host information about these monuments–mainly hmdb.org and waymarking.com. They both are a good repository of information and pictures that I would otherwise not have access to since travel is limited in today’s world. Each entry that has an image has a link to a page with further information about the monument. I decided not to put the inscriptions on the map, as I thought it would make the pins too wordy.

An example of my “Actors” section.

Above is my section on the organizations funded and building these monuments. This section needs a little work–I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I wanted to discuss the organizations and their motives without taking up massive space on the site, but I don’t know if it is finished or done well. I would love to hear your feedback on this section.

I focused mostly on providing short biographical detail before then adding information pulled from their websites and primary source material. However, I trimmed it down to this size because it felt a bit too academic and less accesible.

The beginning of my “Conclusions” section.

After the map and the actors, I have a concluding section where I address the questions that I posed at the beginning of the site. I feel this helps keep the reader engaged with the material as well as some of the historical debates surrounding the topics. I made a google forms document that visitors can fill out with more questions or comments regarding the page, and have a google doc linked in my credits section that will serve as my works cited for the project.

Overall, I think this project is a novelty within the field of mapping these monuments, as many of the existing maps do not have interpretive elements alongs side the physical representation of space. I think that the flexibility of ArcGIS has been beneficial, especially since I can continue to make edits and changes as needed. However, I do not like the lack of citation accessibility on the site which makes incorporating primary source material harder (I’ve tried to overcome this by hyperlinking whenever relevant/possible).

Perhaps the biggest struggle I had with this project was the writing. I spent a lot of time fretting that my language choice was academic and less journalistic; and making comparisons between this medium of history and that of papers. I’m not sure if anyone else felt this way with their projects, but I would love to hear how you’ve handled something similar to this feeling. I hope you guys enjoy this and if you have any questions or suggestions, I am open to them!

Making History Fun! Interactivity and Video Games in Digital History

As we have learned in the past few weeks, museums, historic institutions, and libraries are beginning to embrace digital methods as part of their outreach and engagement programs. One method that particularly effective is participatory exhibitions and video games. As part of this practicum, I will explore the Smithsonian Institutes Museums on Main Street, Histories of the National Mall, and the online iCivics game Argument Wars.

Museum on Main Street

First up is Museum on Mainstreet (MoMS), part of the Smithsonian’s Traveling Exhibition Service, designed as an outreach program to focus on small towns and rural communities, with a median population of 8,000. Their goal is to “to engage communities and become a catalyst for conversation about life in small-town America.  We want to start dialogs, build excitement, facilitate connections, and open doors to your community’s history, culture, people, and sense of local pride.” MoMS has visited over 1,800 communities as part of their program.


MoMS Home Page

On the website home page, they have several dropdown options: Exhibitions, Stories, Resource Center, Educators, and Partners & Venues. These are parts of the collection the highlight the most, with options to select featured items from each section. Under exhibitions, it gives information about the exhibit, some images, some key terms from it, and the schedule for the exhibit. Stories allows for people to submit stories that make them feel connected to history in some way. MoMS then posts the narrative, media files, and relevant links. The resource center contains downloadable .pdfs and webinars that help people with the preservation of local history. Lastly, the educators tab allows for teachers to get involved with MoMs, promote their students work, and to gain access to lesson plans and educational resources.

The MoMS Stories page

This platform is a really good example of participatory action in museums through their dedication to community members and teachers actively submitting and publishing how history affects them through the program.

Histories of the National Mall

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media designed the Histories of the National Mall to allow viewers to explore its rich history through a collection of maps, question-based explorations, collections of significant people, and significant events that shaped the history of the National Mall.

Histories of the National Mall home page

The map is interactive and looks similar to those available on CurateScape. It allows you to view several different layer options including historic maps and to view and select points of interest. The explorations tab has small entries that answer questions or fun facts about the National Mall. The people tab functions more like an Omeka collection, with each entry having a lot of detail and metadata about the individual. Lastly, the events tab allows you to explore a curated list of past events in chronological order. Each entry has tags, allowing the visitor to explore the site thematically as well.

An example of the vintage map layer

Argument Wars

Both of the previous websites functioned more as interactive or participatory exhibits, but Argument Wars is a fun example of an educational video game. iCivics is an online source that focuses on creating engaging and interactive civic education. Argument Wars is one of their games which allows the visitor to argue 9 major Supreme Court cases, including Brown v. Board of Education and Miranda v. Arizona.

Argument Wars case selection page

I decided to play Brown v. Board of Education and then choose your lawyer avatar. It begins with an opening title slide, giving background information about the case and telling me that this case has a voice over option (yay accessibility!). Another nice touch is that the game presents the judges as randomized characters, making the bench much more inclusive and diverse than it traditionally has been.

Owen Wilson opens before the Supreme Court

It then allows you to decide which side of the case you’d like to argue. It then goes through opening arguments of the case, from your character arguing for your side to the judges commenting on the arguments and then hearing from the opposing side. You then get to select what Constitutional base you are using to make your argument.

An example of choosing your Constitutional basis

Then you get 4 rounds to present your arguments. You draw cards that either support your argument, object to the opposition’s argument, or explain further to the court which can give you more points. Within the cards are some explanations of terms to help the player navigate some legal jargon.

An interactive panel letting you choose your framing of your final argument.

After the four rounds the game tells you which side won and “what actually happened” by providing more details about the case. You can then download a certificate of completion or return the title page.

The closing page after finishing your case

All of these sites are creative examples of creating history in engaging ways through digital methods. Which of these did you like the best? How can we continue to use the popularity of video games to engage people with history? Should major institutions begin to program more interactive and video games as part of future exhibitions?

Historical Crossroads: Heritage, Memory, and Legacy through Mapping 21st Century Confederate Monuments

In the past few decades, national debate surrounding monuments and memorials of the Confederacy have reached new heights as activists push for their removal. The monument debate swirls with arguments from the monuments being a testament to blatant racism and injustice in American society and misrepresenting (or altering) history to those of southern and family heritage and legacy. These disagreements have led to protests and counter protests, most notably the tragic 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. Clearly, this topic is volatile and present in the minds of Americans. However, what is not clear is how current some monuments actually are.

Much has been written about the confederate monument craze of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and of key organizers of their construction like the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans. Often, when media sources write about monuments and protests, they mention these historical foundations. However, very little writing exists for the monuments created, erected, and dedicated in the digital age. My project seeks to change that.

An example of coverage in favor of a 21st century monument.

In this project, I will map the (at least) 35 Confederate monuments dedicated in the 21st century. My analysis will include their transcriptions, newspaper articles, and secondary source material to place these monuments within the larger conversation regarding historical memory, legacy, and memorial in America. I want to answer: what are the motives for these new monuments? What are they memorializing? Where is slavery in these monuments? Where is the acknowledgement and accountability of the failure of the confederate state ? How do these fit (or not) within “Lost Cause” narratives? And most importantly, should they be removed?

I propose to use ArcGIS Story Maps for my project because it allows for a blog-like flow of both narrative and mapping service. It will include images, narrative writing, links to further resources, and potentially audio from interviews conducted with those are the forefront of this conflict. It will be interactive and guide the reader through contextual exhibits (liked elaborating on the UDC and its role in memorialization) through the Story Maps slideshow feature. I also would like to incorporate some method of a comment/communication system in the project, perhaps through an embedded link. This project is unique because other Confederate monuments and memorial maps are encyclopedic rather than analytic.

My very bare homepage

The audience I hope will benefit from this project are academics in the field, activists, journalists, and history hobbyists. This tool will allow for more focused discussions of monuments while also challenging the readers to understand the relevancy of these monuments; if they were human, few could drink, a little more could vote, and many wouldn’t be able to legally drive. This suggests that the battle to preserve historical memory is far from over and has a lot of potential for outreach and publicity. In the end, this project will be evaluated on its flexibility; I hope that this is a resource that can grow and be updated to further contextualize commemoration in the United States. This means that map functionality and sustainability coupled with reader feedback will be the focus of my evaluation efforts.

A way I am thinking about categorizing the entries.

What are your thoughts on this? Anything else I should consider or include?

Huzzah: Diction, Language, and Legacy in ‘”The Great”

In 2020, the streaming giant Hulu launched its own exclusive period piece called “The Great”. Starring Elle Fanning and Nicolas Hoult as Catherine II and Tsar Peter III, the show documents the rise of Catherine in court to ultimately becoming Tsarina, earning her title of Catherine the Great. Marketed as a comedy-drama, it has received numerous accolades from its first season. Rebecca Onion, writing for Slate, called the show “wrong on the facts but smart about history”, due to the often blazon disregard of historical fact (such as skipping over five Russian tsars in the lineage between Peter I and Peter III) coupled with its dedication to bringing modernist and feminist struggles to the forefront of entertainment.

Catherine plotting…

With an upcoming season already in production, the Great’s popularity will certainly continue to rise. Is this a good thing for the field of history? This is the main problem I hope to solve in this project. Similar to the Ben Schmidt piece we read for class, I am interested in analyzing the Great through its language choice in the dialogue. The questions that I aim to answer include: How does the script depict court life? What is lost with the dialogue’s particular structure? How does presenting a show in English regarding a non-English speaking court change the perception of the historical subjects? What does the language choice say about how “western” Russia is or is not portrayed to be?

Since I do not speak Russian, I think the first method of analysis would be Russian loanwords—words that originate initially in Russian or represent Russia that have become part of the English lexicon (most notably and prominently, vodka).

THE word

This method will highlight when key loanwords used in the show actually arrived in English and whether or not that is represented accurately in the Great. By using the Voyant tool I can identify key loanwords in the script before then using Google Ngrams to analyze usage over time. Though the show does not adhere to strict time periods, I will be analyzing diction from the 18th century in accordance with Catherine the Great’s rule. Interestingly, most often when written text is presented on the show it is in the Cyrillic alphabet. This gives me hope that words of Russian origin will be used correctly.

I hope to find that the show, even though it touts the fact that the writing is loosely based on its reference material, portrays Russia in way that is not detrimental in pop culture. Within the United States entertainment world, television exposure to Eastern European and Slavic countries is often an unequal one: using various stereotypes and tropes that juxtapose these cultures against other “western” ones. Peter the Great and later Catherine both pushed hard to westernize the state, but does this come through accurately in the Great?

one of the many attempts at an “experiment”

What do you guys think? If you have watched the show, how do you feel it uses language to create meaning for Russia and for Catherine? Happy to hear your thoughts!