Monday, October 8, 2012
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Sunday, September 16, 2012
"Our houses are protected by the good Lord and a gun
And you might meet 'em both if you show up here not welcome son
Our necks are burnt, our roads are dirt and our trucks ain't clean
We won't take a dime if we ain't earned it
When it comes to weight brother we pull our own
If it's our backwoods way of livin' you're concerned with
You can leave us alone
We got a fightin' side a mile wide but we pray for peace
'Cause it's mostly us that end up servin' overseas
If it was up to me I'd love to see this country run
Like it used to be, oughta be, just like it's done
Out here, way out here" -- Josh Thompson
Sunday, September 9, 2012
I’m part of the pecha kucha roundtable on “the Spatial Turn” at least in part because I attended an Arc-GIS course with Ryan Cordell at DHSI in 2011. My goal in that course was to learn enough about Arc-GIS to try out using it to work with documents associated with a set of European itineraries from 1862. Previously, I had worked with a technical liaison from our campus’s Library and Information Services to map some information associated with a woman’s journal from the 1870s. I presented preliminary results from that work at Harvard a few years ago, and I’ll be talking about that project again as part of a series on Digital Humanities for the undergraduate honors program at the University of Kansas in spring 2013.
My interest in mapping the sources of raw cotton in the U.S. South and their destinations for processing in New England in 1840 and 1850 arises from efforts to further contextualize one of those itineraries. My presentation at NEASA will focus on work in progress as I explore effects of the U.S. Civil War on the cotton industry in New England for a paper I will present at a conference sponsored by the Massachusetts Historical Society in spring 2013.
One of the account books among the primary sources we are researching in the Wheaton College Digital History Project documents the operation of a mill that produced cotton batting in Norton, Massachusetts, in the late 1840s. This account book documents the geographical sources of the raw cotton used in the mill, including Apalachicola, Florida, as well as New Orleans. It also refers to the broker from whom the raw cotton was purchased, William J. King of Providence, Rhode Island, who traded on the New York exchange.
The cotton industry shifted in Norton in the 1840s as the wealth of the Wheaton family was transferred from one generation to the next. I am interested in exploring ways in which this microhistorical set of events at the level of family and town might open up questions at the state and national level during a significant period in the economic and political development of the nation.
At the most basic level, mapping of the cotton production has shown correlations with the expansion of slavery for the decades preceding the U.S. Civil War. And last year, Frederick Law Olmstead’s 1861 map of “The Cotton Kingdom” was featured in historian Susan Schulten’s contribution to the “Disunion” blog in the New York Times. Might there be scholarly benefit in examining geospatial information about the sources and destinations of raw and processed cotton at a more granular level?
Friday, August 31, 2012
Digital archives and text mining perhaps offer a new way into the record that may allow us to discover many more (and many previously unknown) histories of reprinting. Histories of reprinting can also be thought of histories of popularity—and thus are useful windows into the priorities of the period. I've worked with a colleague in computer science to begin automatically uncovering new histories of reprinting in the Library of Congress' Chronicling America collection. The results of this text mining look something like this:
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Daniel and I had never before attempted to use the tools that we employed in this project. We were offered assistance by a close friend who has a degree in urban planning and a deep familiarity with ArcGIS. Together, we were able to experiment with ArcGIS. Unsure of what we would discover along the way, we hoped to be able to offer a critique of both traditional scholarly readings as well as the methodologies for data visualization that are becoming increasingly popular in this field. We wanted to turn our lack of knowledge of these tools and our limited data sample into an advantage, hoping that we might be able to offer some insight that more seasoned DH-ers lack. Though our results are still preliminary, what we have found so far is that from an outsider’s perspective, there seems to be an advantage in using data analysis on small samples where close reading is also possible. In Wilkin’s project, for example, references to locations outside the U.S. are construed as evidence of global awareness; close reading of similar passages reveals them to largely concern immigrant origins as they pertain to Euro-American population composition. The initial purpose of our project (and an ongoing aspect) involves generating new spatial tools that allow a comparison between U.S. expansion in literary texts and the types of infrastructural expansion that allowed its real counterpart. Our most valuable conclusion thus far, however, is that spatial tools are only as good as the theory behind them—without knowing the right questions to ask, the answers are not forthcoming.
We're looking forward to discussing our project with you in October!
My presentation is on the spatial relationships of Baltimore's early c19 merchants. Here's an image (from space!) that shows the point of origin for ships that entered Baltimore's ports from March - May 1792.
|Points of Origin for Baltimore Entrances, 1792|
This representation, and others, will help me discuss the trade networks Baltimore's merchants relied on to conduct business. What sorts of questions do you think I can ask and (hopefully) answer with data that looks like this? How is this more or less helpful than a simple list of ports? What does it mean to the historian, or humanist more generally, that he or she can generate a representation like this in only a few hours?
I look forward to responding to your comments and feedback here and at the upcoming conference. Can't wait to be back in Providence!