Digital Project Proposal: Mapping Suffrage History

What’s the Plan?

Last semester, as part of an institutional analysis on the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, I hypothetically proposed a map that would provide access to profiles of suffragists from different socioeconomic, racial, and geographic backgrounds. By demonstrating the breadth of these backgrounds, a visitor would be able to understand why a woman might have chosen to join a suffrage organization such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) or the National Women’s Party (NWP), or why she may have chosen not to affiliate with either group. In this class I would like to take the opportunity to actualize that map, through historypin.

Women of color and those of lower socioeconomic backgrounds were often excluded from suffrage organizations and narratives, leaving a gap in our understanding of suffrage history today. My proposed project would therefore collect profiles of these women who participated in the women’s suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries through official organizations or on their own terms and organize them on a historypin map.

Who Would be Looking at It?

As the centennial of women’s suffrage approaches, there will be growing interest in the history of the suffrage movement. This project then, would apply to all those interested in knowing more about the women themselves. This could be a teaching tool in middle school or high school class rooms, or could be a learning tool for a someone with a casual interest but a desire to know more. It will most directly target those with a prior interest in women’s and suffrage history. In theory then, the project has a potentially large audience base.

Are There Other Suffrage Maps Out There?

There are a number of historypin tours related to women’s suffrage. However, these tours are location dependent, and tell a conventional story of white, middle-class reformers. For example, Humanities New York created a historypin of the suffrage campaign throughout their state, detailing locations of important meetings, locations, and biographies of influential members. Interestingly, they also included present-day events, such as “Convention Days 2017,” and the Long Island Woman Suffrage Association’s meeting in November 2016. Another example can be found in the digital exhibit on the Arkansas Women’s Suffrage Centennial by the Center for Arkansas History and Culture. The exhibit includes an imbedded map that allows visitors to explore landmarks in Arkansas related to suffrage history. Finally, the National Archives has a small historypin map detailing women’s suffrage campaigns in D.C.

While all of these maps depict localized events for potentially local audiences, my proposed project would depict this history on a national scale. In addition, these maps, perhaps because of their locations or because of the resources available to them, rely on traditional organization-based history, and so do not include women of color or women of lower socioeconomic status, who had a fraught relationship with NAWSA and the NWP. This map then, would serve to ameliorate these issues.

What Would Outreach Look Like?

As a historypin map, this project will be available for anyone who searches “suffrage” on the site. However, to increase outreach there are a number of possible avenues. For example, as this project originated with ideas based at the Belmont-Paul, reaching out to the public programming and digital media teams there could result in publicity on social media or on their webpage. This in turn would increase viewing traffic on the map.

What Does Success Mean For This Project?

There are a number of challenges facing this project. Because the NWP and NAWSA at times actively worked to exclude women of color and those of lower socioeconomic classes, these women often left few official records, making it hard to research them today. Potential resource includes the website for the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, which includes webpages on African American suffragists and spotlights on suffragists from across the country. In light of these challenges, a successful project will be one that leverages the existing material to create a fuller picture of suffrage history.

Print Project Proposal: Can Everyone Be A Cartographer?

In undergrad, my first internship was at the Norman Leventhal Map Center, a small education, research, and exhibition space located in the Boston Public Library. My main job was to sit in the back office and georeference Bromley Urban Atlases for eventual digital use. I learned many useful things while there, including a burgeoning love for maps. While I worked at the Map Center, they were developing a new website to make access to their digital collections easier. One component of this was the crowdsourcing of my job – georeferencing. While I focused solely on urban atlases, today visitors to the Map Center’s website can work to georeference any map they’re interested in.

This leads me to my paper project proposal questions. There are now online a variety of digital map resources that encourage individuals to georeference maps they are interested in, and in doing so add to the collections of the host organization. The Norman Leventhal Map Center, New York Public Library, and the David Rumsey Map Collection all encourage their visitors to get their hands dirty, so to speak, and work with the maps on their own digital terms. For this paper I would like to investigate how these three websites work to develop the “crowd” into users, and how successful these techniques are, reflecting research on crowdsourcing already done by individuals such as Brabham and Causer & Wallace.

Not only will this project add to our understanding of crowdsourcing, it has potentially real-life applications: while libraries like the DCPL have extensive digitized collections, there is currently no way for visitors to interact with them. Developing an understanding of the ins and outs of crowd-sourcing for georeferencing may aid these libraries in developing their own platform and increasing interaction between patrons and the library.

The TIME Magazine Corpus of American English

Alright kids, buckle in! Today I’m talking about the TIME Magazine Corpus, which is run by BYU and was first released in May of 2007. The TIME Magazine Corpus allows you to explore how the usage of a word has changed over time, based on 100 million words from about 275,000 articles from TIME magazine. Not only can you look at the frequency of a word’s usage, you can also investigate what words are used most often in conjunction with it. For example, if you search the word “civil,” you can see how often it was used in the magazine between the 1920s and the 2000s, as well as how often it was used in conjunction with the words “war” or “rights” as well as a bevy of other nouns.

If you’ve never used a system like this before, it is slightly less then intuitive; a lot of my learning was through trial and error searches, which used up quite a few of the 50 queries a day I was allocated as a “nonresearcher.” However, scattered throughout the Interface are helpful searches, tips, and tricks to help you gain the most out of your searches.

So how do you use it?

First of all, you need to make an account. The corpus lets you make 10 – 15 queries before requiring this step, but as a register you can make more queries. Importantly, you can also save your searches to return to.

My profile screen.
My saved searches.

The home page also offers a “five minute tour” to get you situated before you begin. This is helpful and I highly recommend it, although the help box on the search page is where I learned most of my querying skills.

The Five Minute Tour.

As you research a word, you have five different search options:

  1. List
  2. Chart
  3. Collocates
  4. Compare
  5. KWIC

In this post I’ll go briefly into each option. Please note that there are much more complicated searches you can do using this tool. For the purposes of this blog, and because I am learning along with you, I will be going over the most basic options.

The first is “List.” Searching a word here takes you to the frequency page, which shows you how many times a word has appeared in TIME Magazine. If you select “Context” after searching, the screen will show you how the word appeared in the sentence it was located in.

List Frequency Output.
List Context Output.

If you wish to add complexity to your search, you can try adding a search layer. For example, if you search a word, such as “civil” + NOUN, it will demonstrate the frequency of the nouns that usually follow the word “civil”

The second option is “Chart,” which acts similarly to the “List” option, but gives the researcher a chart and bar graph, and allows the researcher to break down the frequency by year within a decade.

Chart Output.
Breakdown of the 1960s.

The third option, “Collocates,” acts similarly to the “word” + NOUN option under List. Collocates are words that often occur near other words. So in this case, a collocate of “civil” would be “war” or “rights.” This option will show you which words are most often placed before or after the word you are searching for. If you want to see how collocates have changed over the years, you can sort your results by decade and see when each collocate was most frequent.

Collocates of “civil.”
Collocates broken down by year.

The fourth option “Compare,” allows you to compare the collocates of two words. For example, you might search “civil” and “national” to compare what words are often near by.

Finally, the fifth option is KWIC (Key Word In Context). As with Collocates, this demonstrates words that are often used surrounding the word you are researching. However, KWIC demonstrates a larger pattern, and provides a context larger than the pairing of two words.

KWIC of “civil.”

Using the TIME Magazine Corpus was both exciting and frustrating in equal measure. I could see how it could be useful: there were so many searches possible, so many combinations of parts of speech, time frames, collocates, and phrases. The examples given in the help box grab your attention. For example, if you search “*dom in 1920 – 1940s,” the corpus provides you a list of all the words ending in “dom” used during that period.

Frequency of words ending in “dom” during the 1920s – 1940s.

Or, you could search “nouns near chip in 1980s – 90s. vs 1940s – 50s.” (This one was a particular favorite of mine.)

Collocates of “chip” in the 1980s – 90s and 1940s – 50s.

These are incredible depictions of how the words we use change over time, and how some words are more important at one time than another. In my searches I could see when the word “civil” changed from being inherently connected to “war” and started referring to “rights” and that’s really cool!

But I was also really frustrated by my inability to correctly use the tool. The TIME Magazine Corpus uses a complicated interface (for example, you can’t use the “back” button in your browser, so you need to retrain yourself to use their navigation bar), and sometimes it isn’t clear what each search option means. In addition, elevating your search takes very specific programming instructions that were often, on face value, unclear to me. I’m sure spending time on the platform would ease my usage of it, but with only 50 queries per 24 hours (per email – I ended up using two to get around the rules and spend more time learning) it is hard for a novice to learn the rules of the game, and how to create an intricate, enlightening search. To the creators’ benefit, they do offer A LOT of helpful links, instructions, and example searches, but the learning curve is definitely steep.

What do you guys think? Should I spend more time exploring the corpus, or should I switch over to Google nGram, where Jonah seemed to have a much more productive time? Do you have any tips on how to make search processes easier, or words that you would be particularly interested in learning about?

A Primer to Katie McCarthy

Hi all! My name is Katherine McCarthy, not to be confused with Katherine McCauley. To make things simple, and because I always have, I go by Katie. I’m a first year Public History MA student, with an interest in museum education. I’m especially drawn to interactivity and inclusivity in the programs we design and the history we tell. Academically, I’m most drawn to the early 20th century and especially women’s history.

My science-focused family is all a bit confused as to how I got to this point, but I like to blame learning to read based with the American Girl Doll book series as well as the Dear America and The Royal Diaries historical fiction series. Even as a kid I loved reading about the lives of girls from other countries and other time periods.

Looking back, it was pretty obvious I was going to end up as a public historian. My mom still complains about how the quick drive-through she had planned in Gettysburg when we were visiting family one year turned into an hours long adventure as I insisted on stopping at each and every marker and reading what they said. Growing up, my favorite summer camps were always at the Mystic Seaport Museum, and when I was 13 I (successfully) petitioned for a set of camps for teens, a program that has now doubled in size, and ten years later (!!!) is still going strong. The foundation of my resume was built at the Mystic Seaport – after aging out of their summer camps, I volunteered and worked there for five years before my family moved away from the area. Despite this pretty conclusive evidence, it wasn’t until my sophomore year of undergrad (at Northeastern University in Boston), that I realized that sometimes people made a living sharing stories of the past, and that unlike those I had read as a child, these were true.  

By the end of undergrad, I had decided that, while I had experience working in museums, I wanted more knowledge about how the public history world actually worked. What made it tick? What were the theories and methodologies and arguments that pushed it forward, and maybe sometimes held it back? What were the techniques that I could learn that would make me competitive in the job market? It wasn’t hard to choose AU with its location in DC, surrounded by hundreds of museums and all the stories they held in turn.  

With my interest in interactivity in an increasingly technological and digital methods heavy world, I’m excited for this class. Even the small, slightly underfunded museums I worked for in Boston had technological interactives: touchscreen maps and lessons based in mock gameshows. I’m not exactly what one might consider “tech-savvy,” so I’m excited to learn the ins-and-outs of concepts and tools I don’t even know about yet. I am especially interested in the weeks we discuss digital exhibitions, as well as the week we discuss videogames. As someone who is constantly trying to convince children that yes, history can be more than dusty dates and boring dead men, tools such as these might make the difference.