Final Project: The South Bronx is Burning Historypin Tour

By: Sherrell Daley

For my final project, I created a tour using Historypin to explain the factors that led to arson in the South Bronx in the 1970’s. The tour shows how the community was affected by the fires and how the federal and state governments responded to the crises. Throughout the tour, I reference the New York Times’ archives and books about New York’s fiscal crisis as well. I pinned specific areas where the arson took place and relevant locations that explain different sections of the tour. For example, I pinned New York, New York when explaining the history of the South Bronx and pinned specific arson events to show how all of these events were connected to one another. 

These are the questions I answered when creating the tour:

  • What economic factors led to the arson? 
  • Why was the South Bronx more heavily impacted by the fires than other parts of the city?
  • Who benefited from the fires? 
  • How did the fires impact the South Bronx community and its residents?
  • How did the city and federal governments respond to the arson?

To answer these questions, I decided to research the factors that led to the fires in New York City, particularly in the South Bronx, in the first place. I researched New York City from the 1930s – 1960s to write the Introduction section of the tour. As previously mentioned, I referenced the New York Times’ archives of the reports of arson in the South Bronx along with books about the New York fiscal crisis to complete the project.  

Originally, I set out to create a story map exhibit showing the pattern between the distances to each fire station and the locations where arson was reported in the South Bronx. I was trying to find documents about the closures of fire departments in the South Bronx in the 1970s, but was unable to obtain the records. After talking to one of my classmates, I decided to focus on how the residents were affected by the fires and how it impacted the community at the time. Also, when first trying to create the exhibit on Storymaps it was really difficult to work with, so I decided to work with Historypin instead. Overall, Historypin was more user friendly, I felt more comfortable using it and I actually already had some experience working with it. 

Despite my rough start, I am very satisfied with how my project turned out. Historypin really helped me accomplish my goals for this project and even exceeded my expectations. This software was very easy to use and it allowed me to quickly make changes and add materials to the collection/tour. After this project, I will try to take a break from this topic and explore other areas in New York City’s history and the 1970s. I really enjoyed working on this project and gaining more experience making online exhibits. I hope I can make more of them in the future. 

I hope you enjoy the tour as much as I enjoyed making it!

Link to Tour –,-73.918426,11/bounds/40.654039,-74.066398,40.980898,-73.770454/paging/1/pin/1171547

Presentation Poster of the South Bronx is Burning Project
The Historypin Tour

Digital Video Preservation and Oral History

Digital Video Preservation and Oral History by Kara Van Malssen discusses digital, file based and video preservation issues. Van Malssen is the Managing Director of Consulting of AVPeep. She helps to design and develop solutions for data and information management challenges for different organizations. She is also the co-founder and organizer of the Association of Moving Image Archivists’/Digital Library Federation’s Hack Day. 

Van Malssen teaches readers the anatomy of a video file. She argues that encoding format is important because it tells you the type of compression that will be used on the file for the video. First, she defines a file wrapper (also known as a container) and its use. She stated that files we interact with on our computer or storage system have extensions such as .mov(QuickTime), .avi (AVI), .mpg (MPEG) and .wmv (WindowsMedia). The importance of the file wrapper is to secure the video and audio together, so it can sync together accurately. She also explains the different encoding formats, or codecs (short for coder/decoder). It is used to create the video files to decode it upon playback. Common codecs that are used today are H.264, DV (Digital Video), Apple ProRes, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. Van Malssen believes that the main issues that impact a video workflow are the encoding format, bit rate, extension type and file size. Bit rate (or data rate) is the number of bits that are processed over time. The higher the bit rate, for example, the more computer processing power it will require to edit and transcode. Transcoding is the process of converting one encoding format to another, this “introduces a loss of generation due to different compression algorithms employed by different codeces.” She also explains three different file types called preservation master, mezzanine, and proxy, which are commonly used for video production and archiving. Preservation master file types aim to keep the file in its original condition, while the mezzanine format compresses the file for distribution purposes. She also goes on to describe what a proxy file is (it is akin to a reference file) and what it is used for today. 

She also gave readers different software to use to show the process of converting files to different formats. She lists commercial software that you can purchase, like Compressor, and free software tools like MPEG Streamclip and Handbrake. She also advises people that since formats change over time, it would be wise to preserve files in a newer format. She also feels it’s important to keep up to date on technological advancements, in order to know when a format has become obsolete. Van Masleen gives readers a guide on how to preserve video files as well as explains the constant changes in technological software used for video formatting. 

  1. Van Masslen talks about the importance of the file format. What is the role of the file wrapper? How does it relate to preserving the video files?
  2. Briefly describe transcoding. What can be the advantages and disadvantages of using a transcode?
  3. Van Masslen describes three file types (preservation master, mezzanine, and proxy), how does each file type help preserve video quality?
  4. What is the importance of storage and preserving metadata when supporting video collections?
  5. After reading this article, do you think it was effective in helping you understand digital preservation? If not, what could she have done better?
  6. How does one preserve files with the constant changes in technology? Do you think it’s possible to do so?

” Format Theory”

“Format Theory”, from the chapter of MP3: The Meaning of a Format  by Jonathan Sterne, demonstrates the importance of the MP3 format and its accessibility. According to Sterne, the book explores the histories of compression and bandwidth management in telephony and twentieth century sound media connected to the MP3 format. Sterne talks about telephony and how it relates to MP3. He also talks about its importance as it relates to the way we communicate and what we hear in  today’s world. Sterne argues that telephony helped with the technological advancement of sound despite what many people think. He stated that each major technical iteration of sound recordings made use of telephone research. Although MP3’s are inexpensive and accessible, many argue that it has made sound definition decrease. Sterne disagrees and states that a few possible reasons for this common misconception is:

  1. Greater definition is the same thing as greater verisimilitude
  2. It increases and enhances end-users’ experiences
  3. It increases in bandwidth and storage capacity which leads to higher-definition media for end-users

Sterne states that the history of the MP3 is connected to the history of compression. Compressors worry about the inefficiency of the mechanics of transduction storage and the transmissions with the creation, distribution, and reception of the audio. He considers the MP3 an extremely common medium of sound, particularly for hearing, music and speech. He believes that today, MP3 remains the most reliable audio format. Although one day some format will surpass it, MP3 will always hold a significant part in sound and music. 

  1. Sterne argues that telephony played an important role in the advancement of sound. How does telephony help with the development of sound and audio formats?
  2. How do MP3’s connect to the history of compression and audio? How do these histories connect to create the MP3 format?
  3. Do you agree with the author about the misconception that MP3 has lessened the value of sound?
  4. MP3 is usually talked about within consumer products. How has the MP3 developed from the way we move and store  music?
  5. Although the MP3 is accessible and inexpensive, do you think that comes at a cost for quality? Do you think if MP3 was more expensive it would increase the quality of audio?

Digital Project Proposal

For my digital project, I will be creating an online exhibition about arson in Brooklyn . I would be focusing particularly on the late 1970s and how slumlords would typically burn down their apartment buildings in order to collect the insurance money. In the past, arson fires in Brooklyn have been looked at, but only through traditional historical scholarship. I want to look at these arson fires through a public history perspective. I hope by creating this online digital format it could reach more people and I will be able to help explore this subject through a cultural and social lens. 

For this exhibit, I will be looking at the pattern of arson fires around Brooklyn in the 1970s and how slumlords would burn their buildings where the fire departments were closed due to budget cuts. 

Who benefited from these fires. Other than greed, why would landlords burn down their properties ? Why were there so many fire department closures at the time ? What was the impact of the fires on tenants ? If landlords were ever caught, how were they prosecuted?

New York City Fire Department reporting an arson fire

I will develop a digital exhibit on ArcGIS StoryMap to show the patterns of arson around Brooklyn at the time. I believe that StoryMap is the best way to display the significance of my exhibit. By using this tool, you could see the pattern of how slumlords would burn their buildings, especially in places that no longer had a fire department due to budget cuts. StoryMap is very user friendly, making it easy to use. I will also include photos of buildings and use historical scholarship in order to create the most informative and accessible exhibit possible.

Print Project Proposal- The Museum of the City of New York Social Media and Audience Engagement

Museums have long tried to keep up with the technological demands of audiences. They have also tried many techniques to appeal to younger visitors as well. Some museums have been apprehensive about turning to social media to promote their exhibits, while others have been enthusiastic in hopes of bringing in more visitors. The Museum of the City of the New York (MCNY) was founded in 1923 and has been one of the top destinations for New Yorkers and tourists. The museum’s mission is to “foster understanding of the distinctive nature of urban life in the world’s most influential metropolis. It engages visitors by celebrating, documenting, and interpreting the city’s past, present, and future.” How does one of the oldest museums in the United States stay relevant in a technologically based world? What type of social media programming does the museum use to attract visitors? Did MCNY need to change its mission in order to bring in new visitors?

For this project, I will focus on the technological tactics MCNY uses, such as social media and other media outlets, in order to attract more visitors.

Museum of the City of New York Instagram
MCNY’s Podcast Your Hometown

The MCNY uses social media, like Instagram, to share hashtag posts like #OnThisDay and #CityViewSunday to interact with their followers. They also share photos from their physical collections in order to attract a larger audience. For example, they have shared collections from their 80s music exhibit and Samuel H. Gottscho’s photographs from the 1930’s, to target both younger and older audiences. The museum also participates in other virtual programs like the creation of their podcast called Your Hometown. Why did they choose to feature certain collections rather than others? Has sharing those particular collections/exhibits helped to increase traffic to the museum? Do these posts speak to the cultural and social diversity of New Yorkers and tourists alike?  

Looking at the museum’s past posts and collections shared, we can see the posts that their followers liked and commented on the most. From there, I will listen to their most viewed podcasts and see how their languages differ from each other. I would then put the posts and transcripts of the podcast on Voyant. Voyant is an online site that gives the user a visual picture to see which words are the most commonly used. By using this online tool, you can easily compare the language styles of these two digital platforms. Do museums use different language on their podcast vs. their Instagram posts? Are they trying to appeal to two separate demographics using these platforms? What history is displayed on these posts and is there a particular time period that gets the most likes or views?

Introduction: Sherrell Daley

Hi! My name is Sherrell Daley and I am a first year MA Public History student at American University. I am from Brooklyn, New York and I received my bachelor’s degree in History at Allegheny College. I studied a variety of historical topics during my undergraduate career, but the topic that interests me most is Modern U.S. and Urban history. In junior year, I decided that I did not want my work to be only seen in academia, so I decided to take the public history route. Also during my junior year, I was able to curate and archive my own exhibit, which made me gain a passion for curatorial work. And now I am here!

In the MA Public History program, I hope to gain more valuable knowledge of practical history beyond academia. I am excited to get practical experience that I can use throughout my career as a public historian. I hope to learn more about public history and how we as historians can make museums more accessible and enjoyable for everyone, not just the select few. In the future, I hope to get my PhD in history, so I can become a curator in a museum that displays Modern Urban History (particularly the Museum of the City New York, but any cool museum will do.) I would also like to incorporate museum education with my curatorial work to make museums more visitor friendly. Completing this course, I would like to learn more about digital history and how to produce historical exhibits in a digital format. I hope to be able to produce both physical and digital exhibits in the future as well. I can’t wait to learn and work with all of you!! Good luck this semester! Cheers!