Digital Project Proposal

The topic of North American maroonage is one that is rarely studied or discussed. Maroonage, or marronage, is the act of a slave fleeing, generally to an area uneasily accessible, such as a swamp or mountains. Maroonage is often divided into two sections, grand and petit. Petit maroonage is temporary, it is when a slave flees to visit a family member or is trying to negotiate better terms with the plantation owner, but intends on returning. Grand maroonage is when a slave flees permanently, sometimes forming communities with fellow slaves out of the reach of the power of the slaveholder society. It is grand maroonage during one of its highest points, the American Revolution, that this digital project will address to help address the lack of public knowledge regarding this important action or resistance of resistance.

To fill this gap in knowledge, my digital project will be a website on North American maroons. In addition to providing simple information about maroons, how they lived, and how the American Revolution provided them the chance to leave their plantations during the chaos of a British invasion, this website will also present information on the maroons in a number of non-textual ways. Using Viewshare my project will include a map, time-line, and perhaps some charts or graphs, to display the locations of maroon communities during this time period, when they existed, how large they were thought to be (if this information can be found), and what happened to them. Integrating this with stories about the maroon communities will create a multifaceted and engaging way of learning about maroons.

A brief examination on both the scholarship on North American maroons and websites dealing with maroons reveals an unsurprising absence. When maroons are mentioned it is generally in relation to Haiti or South America, and this is still a rare occurrence. Since this absence is so great the audience my website will aim for is broad. Educators and students will be foremost amongst who will benefit from this website, but anyone looking to learn more about the American Revolution in the South could benefit from this website. While academics will not be the primary audience, I hope that the maps and charts produced will have utility for an academic audience. Reaching these audiences is the greatest difficulty my project will encounter. Outreach to related historical websites and organizations is the most obvious way of reaching this websites audience, but other ways will be explored during the development of the website.

The most time consuming aspect of this project will be gathering and organizing the information for Viewshare, making it the first priority in my work plan. Once organizing is done, I will input the information in Viewshare and experiment with which visualizations are the most usual. When the Viewshare portion is complete then I will focus on making the website itself using WordPress technology on a domain I will purchase(most likely dream host). Currently I have already done some research on this topic and know many of the sources I will draw upon.

Digital Project: Butte, Montana Blog

My family is originally from Butte, Montana, a city to this day called the “Richest Hill on Earth.”  In its heyday from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, Butte was a booming mining town.  Workers pulled tons of gold, silver and other metals from the mines, but the city was especially famous for its rich abundance of copper.  In 1920 Butte produced 15% of the world’s copper supply, and beginning in 1941 the city provided the U.S. with 51% of the total copper used for America’s war efforts during WWII (  Butte is also home to famous daredevil “Evel” Knievel!  After being essentially shut down for nearly three decades, Butte’s mining industry has been resurrected and the city continues to be a global supplier of ore and minerals today.

Although I will probably be sticking with my print project, if I were to do a digital one I would like to create a blog dedicated to analyzing and discussing Butte’s rich history.  Butte’s historical significance is fairly well-known even outside of Montana and the western portion of the U.S., but its presence on the web appears to be lacking in several respects.  From what I could tell from a little bit of research, not many people are talking about Butte on blogs or other digital media.  More importantly, I could not find a blog that was dedicated to a scholarly discussion of Butte’s history or legacy.  I think that there is a need for a blog such as the one I am proposing.

I would use WordPress for this project.  I would have several posts devoted to various aspects of the city’s history.  Topics might include:  Butte’s rich and diverse ethnic heritage, the Copper Kings (the men who basically started the mining industry), unionizing efforts, the Anaconda Company (Butte’s largest mining company), the growth of the Berkeley Pit and the destruction of several ethnic towns that it caused, Evel Knievel and his contributions to U.S. culture, open-pit vs. underground mining, and so on and so forth.

My intended audience would be fairly broad, but I would maintain my concentration on offering a scholarly discussion about history.  I would ardently strive to foster a thoughtful dialogue and would try to prevent the blog from becoming a venue for people to simply post small snippets of their own experiences in Butte.  It would most likely appeal to former and current Butte residents and scholars of history, geology, ecology and anthropology, but I can imagine that people who are interested in the western U.S. would also potentially visit my blog.  I personally know people who fall into each of these categories, so I would have them view the blog and evaluate it to see if it met their needs.  I would rely on class readings, discussions and practica  to help me create the blog and mold it into a useful digital tool, and I would utilize a collection of Butte-related historiography to help provide the historical content.  If it evolved as I imagine it, I really think this project could be an effective way of showing this city’s local, regional and national significance.



Bay of Pigs

The Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17, 1961 has deeply impacted the U.S. relationship with Cuba over the last fifty one years. Not only was the invasion a failure for the CIA, but the covert action and the initial lies from the Kennedy administration about the details of the invasion caused the American media and the American people to begin to question government’s claims regarding foreign policy. The truth about the invastion trickled out from April 1961 to 1965, when several books and articles were written uncovering the details of the invasion. Since then the internet has created a plethora of videos to portray  the Bay of Pigs invasion and its legacy.

My digital project will create a website using Omeka to compile a variety of different links to sites that depict the Bay of Pigs for a comprehensive studyof how the Bay of Pigs is presented via video and pictures. What will be significant is that this website will help users solve the Bay of Pigs puzzle; that is, it will enable the user to unravel the true account of the Bay of Pigs. These websites include videos from You tube, the History Channel, NBC, ABC, PBS, Flikr and others.

Most importantly, the goal of the project will be to compare the different presentations of the same subject, the Bay of Pigs, and discern any differences regarding the facts that are presented. I will compare the different vidoes and pictures and anaylze them. Some of the details I will look for include if there is a political bias in the different presentations, if there are facts about the invasion that are deleted or inaccurate and how credible the presentations are to the user. I will also look at the comments from the general public and comparetheir responses to the different videos and pictures.

This website will target both scholars and researchers, who want to know more about the Bay of Pigs. It will provide a resource for students, who want to want to ferret out the facts of the invasion and enable them to to distingish fact from fiction. After looking at this site, a researcher will also be able to distinguish between the videos and pictures that offer the most substantive account of the Bay of Pigs and the ones that either gloss over the facts, twist the truth or provide information that is unreliable.

Closing Crucible

Midland is a small town an hour northwest of Pittsburgh, Pa., five minutes from the Pennsylvania-Ohio border and right on the Ohio River. Its 12 blocks are now relatively quiet, but 50 years ago, it was a bustling town with frequent traffic jams. What caused the change?

A steel mill closed.

I am currently working on an oral history project for my senior thesis on the closing of the Crucible steel mill and its effects on the communities of Midland, Ohioville and Industry. The interviews look at what the area was like in Crucible’s heyday, in the early 1980s when layoffs started and the mill shut down, and the present. Interviewees include/will include mill workers, church-goers, school board members, business owners and every-day residents.

I’d like to create a website, most likely on Omeka, to present these oral histories. The transcripts and recordings are going into the archives of the Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation, where I’m sure they will receive little attention. Creating a site for the oral histories makes them accessible to a broad range of people. This includes not only history enthusiasts and researchers, but also educators and students.

The site will hopefully include audio files of the interviews, transcripts, photos  of the area during the heyday and shut down, as well as some recent photos. The BCHRLF also has some great photos of the mill being built in 1905 that could possibly be digitized and added to the site to give historical context.

Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area has a site with oral histories on steel workers in the Pittsburgh area, but there is only one interview about Crucible. The entire interview and the transcript were not available online, or at least I couldn’t find them. Youngstown State University has a section of Crucible oral histories in its online library catalogue, but only the transcripts are available and they’re rather dated – from the late 1980s. All of these oral histories are focused on actually working in the mill instead of the community surrounding the mill.

This site will increase knowledge on local history, make it more accessible, and hopefully encourage teachers to use the material in the classroom. A lot of my interest for this project comes from the fact that growing up in Ohioville, I never really knew about Crucible. I heard a few stories about my uncle blowing black soot from his nose when he came home from work because he worked in the blast furnace, but that was it. I never knew that my school district was created because of the mill and that its enrollment has been decreasing because the mill closed. When my high school history teachers talked about steel mills they talked about Pittsburgh, but never mentioned the fact that there was another steel mill 10 minutes away from our school and that we all probably knew someone who worked there. But with this online archive of oral histories, that could all change. Just because Crucible closed doesn’t mean it should be forgotten.

Digital Project Proposal: Chicago Cemeteries

My digital project is a bit of a flight of fancy as I will be focusing on my print project this semester, but it is still one that I find fascinating and could potentially see myself working on in the future (especially if 30-hour days are invented). The backstory of this particular project can be found in the fact that my previous apartment in Chicago lay within 50 feet of one cemetery and within one city block of three additional cemeteries. For exercise and photographic fancy, I would often wander these lush green urban gardens on gorgeous weekend afternoons enjoying the wildlife (Coyotes! Deer!) and snapping photos of monuments that intrigued me. Like a gateway drug, this led to other cemeteries further and further afield. As it turns out, Chicago and the surrounding suburbs have no shortage of dead people, some famous, some infamous, some average joes, and some average joes with fabulously eccentric monuments.

The website I am proposing would be a WordPress blog featuring photo-heavy posts about interesting monuments and mausoleums that I found in Chicago-area cemeteries. The posts would include discussion of the monuments of a variety of figures notable in national history (ex. George Pullman and Louis Sullivan), locally important characters (ex. Ruth Page, Al Capone and his gang, and Marshall Field), victims of local historical tragedies like the Iroquois Theater fire or the Eastland disaster, and other interesting residents of Chicago’s most permanent neighborhoods. Posts would also discuss relevant issues like trends cemetery architecture and monument symbolism (particular carvings, group membership symbols, etc.) related to the particular monument being discussed. While the scope would be city-wide, there would be an opportunity to curate collections related to specific cemeteries using tags, as well as statuary themes, historical events, and other useful categories. Blog posts would allow users to provide their own thoughts via comments and the site would include an integrated Twitter account/widget to push out new post notifications to followers. A dedicated email address would solicit individual users to contribute suggestions for future blog posts based on their own exploration.

The imagined audience for this blog would be primarily non-academic, catering to individuals with an interest in history generally and in Chicago history specifically, as well as a growing segment of cemetery sightseers. The hope would be to foster even greater appreciation of these sites of rich history and ensure their preservation for future generations by inspiring Chicago-area residents and visitors from all over the world to explore these sites. Chicago’s cemeteries are well loved online in social-networking sites. For example, a Flickr group dedicated to the topic has almost 300 members who have posted nearly 3,000 photos and Yelp features glowing reviews of many of the city’s more famous cemeteries, including 40 for Graceland Cemetery alone. This does not translate to a complete and in-depth representation of Chicago cemeteries online. Individual cemetery websites are inconsistent in terms of content, with many focusing exclusively on providing information regarding current and future interments and very few providing compelling evidence of the cultural heritage resources that lie within their gates. One website that I found focuses on graveyards in Illinois, but the site does not appear to have been updated since 2010 and the overall design of the homepage smacks of mid-90s geocities-style design logic. I think there is definitely a void to be filled by a user-friendly blog on this topic due to the organic interest it has already garnered and the lack of a unified resources for this type of information. A potential model for the types of posts that I am imagining would be the well-executed site AfterLife, which is dedicated to sharing English-language monument and historical information drawn from the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

See the photos included below for examples. On the left, Al Capone’s in-ground headstone (which is accompanied by a large family monument, not shown). On the right, the monument of a gentleman who really, really loved Chicago (“Forty three years resident in Chicago. Twenty three years her faithful public servant.”)