Mapping the Ancient Roman Empire: Digital Proposal

Hello everyone, I am planning on constructing a digital mapping project displaying the Ancient Roman Empire and highlighting multiple moments throughout my presentation in which I think makes sense since the Roman empire was active for so many years, and makes up an important part of human history. As for programs to use for this project I am thinking of using either Word Press, Google My Maps, or ArcGIS Story Maps. I think it would be a cool way to spend my time refreshing my knowledge on what I know about Roman history especially since I was fascinated with the history of civilizations since I was a teenager. I’m also thinking about pairing up the map with a piece of writing to go along with it that expresses the progressive evolution of the ancient empire, and I would like to provide more details about priorities for the empire in its efforts to sustain itself for how long it eventually did. I want to talk about the empires major success and failures, and maybe even include some memorable people that took over powerful roles in their life.

The Rich History - Map of the Roman Empire at it's Height | Roman empire, Roman  empire map, Byzantine empire
Roman Empire

I am thinking of presenting the class with images to present a picture or model of the span of the growth of the Roman Empire throughout the centuries and briefly touch on reasons why things change and why some things stay the same. I think some of the questions that I can ask myself with how to go about this project could possibly breed a creative side in my project development skills when coupled with a topic like this and for that, I would like to say that I enjoy this kind of proposal type blog because it gives us an opportunity to organize our thoughts on what ideas could work best for a digital history project. I also have developed a deep sense of comfort in deciphering the meaning of a map as I was taught early in my education to do so. I think it’s a valuable thing I could add for more value.

Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus)
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus

Finally, I can wrap up the most memorable parts of the history in the written add-on whilst creating the map to create a better visual representation of the memorable events and turning points in the Roman Empires’ existence. If anyone that likes my idea would like to work with me or give me suggestions or pointers on something I could include let me know in the comments I would greatly appreciate a comment with a suggestion. Fascinated with the topic and I’m confident I can do a good job as I organize my plans on execution through this proposal.

A Life on Our Planet: Print Proposal.

In September of the year 2020, Broadcaster, environmentalist, and naturalist David Attenborough released a documentary on Netflix that I found myself a big fan of and enlightened me to be a better person by taking into account the way we treat our natural world. The film takes into account the disaster that occurred in Chernobyl, Ukraine in April 1986. A disaster was caused by a flawed reactor design that was operated by inadequately trained personnel. The result of this flaw and poor operation of the reactor resulted in a steam explosion and fires that released radiation into the environment. There were deaths as a result of exposure to radiation and an evacuation of approximately 350,000 people took place and as a result, Chernobyl was completely empty and abandoned. In this documentary, David Attenborough shares with us the natural development that occurred in Chernobyl years after the accident and dives into his witness statement to the world in the case of humans vs. the natural world.

Chernobyl disaster | Causes & Facts | Britannica
Chernobyl nuclear-station in Ukraine

For my print proposal, I would like to write an essay in which I cover my perspective on the unique tragic incident that makes for an interesting background information story in the documentary “A Life on Our Planet”. In the paper, I would consider the perspective of David Attenborough as he narrates through the film and focus on the things he says throughout the film that paints a bleak picture of the future of our world because I think he has shared valuable lessons with the world and I think he is a good role model. In the film, the narration is backed up by research and factual informative evidence that indicate that our world is headed in the wrong direction when taking into account the natural health of our planet on a wide scale including habitats for natural species, human life, and plants living on our planet. The information talked about in the narration can make for a good conversation in my essay about the film, the history of our biogeographical world, and possibly explore questions that may provide solutions to some of the shortcomings of the human race in its attempt to become more environmentally friendly. My vision and decision to write on this documentary stems from the sense of initiative that I got after watching the documentary to become a more environmentally friendly person.

Celebrate Sir David Attenborough's birthday: From 'Planet Earth' to 'The  Hunt', watch his best documentaries - The Hindu
David Attenborough spending time with a turtle resting by the sea-shore.

I am excited for this because I truly find this to be an incredible topic of research and a subject area in which I find myself intrigued to further develop a conversation in a well-written analytical paper. Also, I think this topic is interesting because it brings in a historical event that occurred to explain a natural phenomenon while also educating the viewers about the problems our world is facing. Let me know what you think in the comments!

A Growing Obsession: A History of Houseplants and Colonialism

Since starting college, I’ve had an unsatisfiable urge to collect houseplants. While I’ve (unfortunately) killed a few off and had to give others away, my collection has been growing since then. What started as a simple succulent has grown into African violets, pothos, pepperomias, pileas, spider plants, and snake plants– just to name a few.

And I’m not the only one to take a liking to houseplants in recent years. A quick scroll through Pinterest shows trendy, beautifully decorated spaces complete with an array of potted plants.

Searching “bedroom decor” on Pinterest shows many results featuring houseplants as essential decor

House plants have come in and gone out of style regularly for the past few decades. I started to wonder recently, where does our fascination with houseplants come from and how did these plants, originating from all over the world, become a part of our households.

Some beginning searches reveal the complicated origins of plant collecting and its ties with European imperialism and colonialism. The origins of cultivating plants for aesthetics goes as far back as c. 600 BCE with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were commissioned by King Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife, Queen Amytis. There is evidence for wealthy citizens in Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece caring for plants in the luxurious estates, though houseplants fell out of fashion in Europe following the fall of the Roman Empire. . There is also the art of Bonsai, which began in China between 100 and 400 CE.

Victorian Era Illustration of a woman reading near her houseplants.

When European explorers encountered the Americas in the 1400s as Europeans began colonizing the globe. They brought back with them botanical specimens from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The richest Europeans began showcasing by growing exotic and tropical pants in elaborate greenhouses. According to Lauren Camilleri and Sophia Kaplan (authors of Plantopedia), the fashion of keeping houseplants came to a peak in the late 1800s to early 1900s when tropical plants became more accessible to the middle class. After a period out of fashion, the end of World War II saw another boost in the popularity of houseplants.

At the root of this story is European colonization. Exploitation of land and indigenous people facilitated the rise of indoor gardens and houseplants in Europe, bringing in hearty plants that assimilate well to indoor environments.

I propose a digital history project which features a map showing where different types of houseplants originate, paired with a discussion on the relationship between the world of botany and European colonization. In the pursuit of collecting plant specimens for both production and for display, Western scientists often exploited people indigenous to colonized lands, ignoring and, even, erasing the knowledge held by indigenous people.

Beginnings of a map showing origins of popular house plants using ArcGIS StoryMaps

A resulting project using this idea would likely utilize ArcGIS StoryMaps because of the available features and ease of use. The above screenshot shows a precursory map showing the origins of popular house plants, though much more research is needed. The project could situate houseplants and botany within the history of commodities and trade during the height of European global empires. I believe ArcGIS StoryMaps will be a useful tool for this project, allowing for both mapping and interpretation side by side. I hope to include compelling photos and feature important research by scholars, while also being an accessible resource for the average person.

Minority Servicewomen in the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII: An Interactive Timeline Proposal

World War II was a significant period of transition for minorities and women in the United States in positive and negative ways as economic opportunities expanded, the military allowed more groups to serve, and American society’s views on women and ethnically diverse populations fluctuated. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the U.S. into World War II, the military recognized the need for more manpower (that word is ironic here) in order to free more men into overseas service. Therefore, women’s auxiliary programs for each of the different branches of the military were developed, which mostly created noncombatant roles for servicewomen. One of these was the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP.

Image of four WASPs from the National Archives

WASP was active between 1943 and 1944 and was considered an auxiliary program of the Army Air Corps. Thus, these 1,074 pilots were technically civilians yet they were also some of the first women to fly for the United States military. According to the WASP digital archive, WASP “logged more than 60 million miles and flew every plane the Army Air Forces possessed and every type of mission a male pilot flew during WWII except combat.” These trips often consisted of flying military planes across the country in order to deliver aircraft to and from military bases and factories. Even so, these trips could be dangerous as 38 WASP pilots died in service. Unfortunately, these servicewomen were not only not given military benefits or military status during the war, they were also deactivated in 1944 when it was deemed that they were not needed anymore. WASP was only given veteran status in 1977 and President Obama awarded them the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.

President Obama awarding WASPs with the Congressional Gold Medal (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

For my undergraduate university honors thesis, I researched the two Chinese American Women Airforce Service Pilots, Maggie Gee (1923-2013) and Hazel Ying Lee (1912-1944). Out of the 1,074 WASP pilots, there were only a small number of minority women. Other than Gee and Lee, the other minority women include Native American (specifically Oglala Sioux) Ola Millie Rexroat and two Mexican American women Verneda Rodriguez McLean and Frances Dias Gustavson (there is very little information on these two). African American women applied and even interviewed to join yet were rejected. In one of these interviews, the founder of WASP Jacqueline Cochran explained to applicant Janet Harmon Bragg that WASP was already facing enough gender discrimination that she felt it would be too difficult to include African American women. Another African American woman that was rejected is Mildred Hemmans Carter, who was actually retroactively accepted into the WASP program seventy years later.

Hazel Ying Lee, one of the two Chinese American WASPs (U.S. Air Force photo)

Not only are the WASP in general fairly underrepresented in research and in military histories, its minority servicewomen are even more so. I became aware of this issue while researching for my thesis, in which I stated: “The scholarship that has focused on or at least mentioned WASP often failed to include or elaborate on Lee and Gee or any of the other minority servicewomen. While there were only a small number of minority women in WASP, this unfortunate trend whitewashes American history” (21). My proposal for this project is to develop an interactive timeline on the Northwestern University Knight Lab’s Timeline JS tool. I learned of this program through the official WASP digital archive as they do have their own WASP history timeline using this tool yet this part of their website, as with many sources on WASP, neglects highlighting its minority servicewomen.

A screenshot of the WASP archive’s interactive timeline for its history (https://twu.edu/library/womans-collection/collections/women-airforce-service-pilots-official-archive/history/)

I contend that the Timeline JS tool is one prime example of how I can document these women’s stories in an interactive and distinctive way. In my timeline, I hope to both include the 5 minority women I mentioned while perhaps also featuring the African American women like Bragg and Carter that were rejected yet are still important to WASP history. The timeline would allow me to include pictures, descriptions, dates, links to further reading, and other information that would relate to these women’s lives and their experiences in WASP. While most of these materials would come from the WASP digital archive itself (I used many of their primary sources in my thesis, so I would hope to be able to do this again), I would also draw from other archives and various secondary sources. While I would be thrilled to continue this project as its own thesis, I think that this interactive timeline, and perhaps an accompanying website on WordPress, is another unique way to document this history. With an interactive timeline, we are able to both visualize these significant minority women in American military history as well as learn about their lives and time in service to their country.

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?