After a semester of hard work learning new digital skills and exploring the role of digital archives in the preservation of communications technologies that span the entirety of human history, students in HUM 331 have put together impressive final projects related to digitized sources in Princeton University’s Special Collections. Navigate to the Final Projects page to read a bit about each final project and be sure to follow the links to explore each one individually.
This blog features the research of students in A History of Words: Technologies of Communication from Cuneiform to Coding (HUM 331) taught by Professor Melissa Reynolds in the Humanities Council and History Department at Princeton University in Spring 2021. Throughout the semester, students will be posting their research on archival materials held in Princeton Library’s Special Collections using various digital “tools” that they learn over the semester. As they post, they are learning how to use Jekyll, GitHub Pages, and Markdown to build a static site (like this one) so that they can share their in-depth research on everything from campus activism to nineteenth-century travelogues to early Japanese board games, taking advantage of the possibilities of digital storytelling and digital analytical methodologies. Check back in May to see those projects, but in the mean time, scroll down to read posts featuring their intermediate research, or toggle the menu at the top left to check out their bios or to read the course syllabus.
Hello everyone and welcome back! For this digital tools assignment, I decided to do something a little bit more fun than I usually do. It’s the very end of the semester, and so I decided that I wanted to explore some of Taylor Swift’s discography through a digital tools assignment. More specifically, I chose to analyze the songs from her 2012 album Red (I used the Deluxe edition), 2017 album reputation, and 2019 album Lover. Red is the album where Swift really began to break from her roots in country music and to explore pop and electronic music. Later, after switching to all-out pop on 1989 (thanks Jack Antonoff, Shellback, and Max Martin), on reputation she doubles down with an infusion of pop, EDM, and even house. On Lover she’s back to a more tradition synth-pop sound, distinctly more bubblegum than reputation, with some acoustic-style tracks mixed in (no hate to “New Year’s Day” or “Call it What You Want”). On a completely selfish level, I wanted to analyze the themes present on these albums because I lyrically appreciate these three very much (Swifties, don’t hate on me, I like them all, but I was in the mood for these three at the time of writing this).
So, the research question I went into this project with was: Which themes are most common across these three particular TS albums? What themes go together in songs, and which combinations of moods/themes is the least common? What does that say about those tracks in particular, if anything?
For this project, I chose to go with Option B, looking at a specific era of film and television. I chose to look at Disney Studios specifically, rather than a specific genre, because of the unique influence that Disney has held over American youth, popular culture, and the creation of celebrity and stardom in the United States (and the world more widely as well), especially on Gen Z. For the project, I looked specifically at Disney-made film and television shows from 2001 to 2015. Because Disney Studios is so encompassing in the film and television industry, I focused on “Disney Originals” for the movies from this period and exlcuded cartoon and animated movies. For the sake of the project’s span, I omitted a some of the smaller Disney Originals from the period 2001-2015, basing it on the reported viewership from each movie’s premieres (Disney Originals all premiered on Disney channel rather than movie theaters). Having grown up as a part of the generation that lived with these movies and shows, I was interested in seeing how the network depicted the use of actors in the Disney Studios. In this way, I think the movie/television nodes are less about the actual project than the time period and the studio behind it. My hypothesis was that there would arise two main ideas in the network. Firstly, that the creation of celebrity was key for the development of Disney and Disney sought to create, rather than maintain, stardom. Thus, they would be responsible for the the creation of pop culture, but not be made to ensure it. Secondly, I also wanted to see how interconnected Disney Studios itself actually is. By looking at their actors and their projects, I hoped to see overlap, creating a distinct “community” of Disney actors.
data set (note that Sender column was used for source node, Recipient column for target node, and Date column for edge attribute, while the other two columns were not included)
For each of three time periods (1500-1650, 1650-1800, and 1800-2000), I will show a view of the entire network as well as a closer view of a particularly interesting section of the network.
All of these network pictures show a lot of data, so they are naturally a bit cluttered and it is hard to pick out individual connections. However, this does not mean they do not show qualitatively significant network features. Two such features that are worth looking at are:
- The connections or lack thereof between components of the network, which can be observed from the broad view for each time period’s network.
- The connections or lack thereof between nodes (in particular those that are connected to a ‘hub’ node with a large number of adjacent edges) with few adjacent edges, which can be observed from the closer view for each time period’s network.
Broad view of letter network including letters from 1500-1650
Close up view of letter network including letters from 1500-1650
Broad view of letter network including letters from 1650-1800
Close up view of letter network including letters from 1650-1800
Broad view of letter network including letters from 1800-2000
Close up view of letter network including letters from 1800-2000
How did you go about formulating a research question?
The first step for formulating a research question for me was to find data suitable to network analysis. So since we read about the republic of letters and discussed it in class, this network of letter sending/receiving stood out to me as a good candidate for research on using Cytoscape. Specifically, the site we looked at in class kept metadata on the origin and destination of the letters such that each letter could be easily translated into connections between location nodes in a social network.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out any easy way to scrape data from EMLO. Instead, I ended up using data from “correspSearch”, which is an online database of the metadata of scholarly editions of letters. The site seemed to be German with metadata collected from primarily german websites/databases, which might represent a skew towards more letters with origin or destination in Germany. (However, the data from EMLO – or any source – would also be skewed just in a different way, since there is always selection bias when the data isn’t 100% complete).
Once I had figured out the data that I was using (letter metadata) and the form of the network (locations as nodes, letters as connections), I began to consider what research questions could be asked about this network. Some questions were implausible given the limitations of the data (for example, any question about how the letter’s theme/type related to any other variable – time, origin, etc. – was implausible since there was no theme/type metadata). Consequently, I focused on research questions that related to the metadata that was available.
Specifically, there was metadata on the origin, destination, sender, receiver, and date of each letter. The date stood out to me as a particularly useful piece of information for network analysis since the connections were spread over a large time period. Especially in the context of this class, where we have been looking at the evolution of communication over time, comparing letter networks at different points in time seemed like a very interesting topic.
What is the role of setting in dystopian movies?
When considering movie genres for this assignment, I became curious about the patterns and trends in the settings of dystopian movies. In particular, I wanted to examine what types of settings were commonly seen in these types of movies and whether these settings reflected a real-world location. Often, dystopian movies reflect elements of human society and offer a criticism, warning, or other message about the future of life on Earth. Since these messages can explore threatening and alarming topics, I anticipated that dystopian movies would employ fictional locations to served as representations of life on Earth, rather than realistically establishing the movie in a particular location. However, I found that many of the movies that I analyzed take place in an explicitly familiar setting - whether on Earth, a particular country, or one city, these movies locate themselves in the audience’s world.
The research question I wanted to investigate was which actors in the Marvel Cinemetic Universe (MCU) were in which films. In particular, I wanted to see if certain actors were in more films and which films had the biggest ensemble casts. For instance, I expected the Avengers movies to have a lot of actors, and I expected those actors to have also been in other MCU movies. I wanted to investigate that question since the MCU is one of the biggest and impactful franchises in the modern day. Thus, the actors cast in the movies, especially the ones who appear most frequently, are influential celebrities. Additionally, I thought it was interesting to see actors and the movies they were cast in during the silent era, and examining actors in the MCU seemed like the modern day equivalent.
The most interesting nodes to me were the avenger film nodes since those movies had the largest casts since they were bigger ensemble films. The most interesting edges were between the most popular actors like Robert Downey, Mark Ruffalo, and Scarlett Johansson, especially since these actors sometimes appeared in movies that were not avengers movies or movies where they were the star. For instance, Robert Downey had an interesting edge between himself and the Spiderman movie. Similarly, Mark Ruffalo had an edge between himself and Thor Ragnarok. These nodes are signficant since they showcase two important aspects of the narrative of the research. The first is that it shows how certain actors and characters are popular so the MCU chooses to involve them in more projects. The second is that certain characters are important instigators and features of multiple stories. For example, Robert Downey as Iron Man is important for helping Spider Man become a hero.
I was a bit surprised to see the amount of female characters cast in multiple films. For instance, I was surprised to see that Gwenyth Paltrow was in so many movies since I did not expect a hero’s love interest to be important enough to cast in a lot of films. I was also surprised to see that Scarlett Johansson was cast in as many films as she was especially since some of them were not Avengers ensemble movies. For instance, she was in one of the Iron Man movies. I think this aspect could demonstrate that the MCU wants to include more female characters, but they use the same few in multiple films.
You can view the google sheet to create the cytoscape here
The Visualization of the Network
The Background Work (highlighting and categorizing first and third person word usage within excerpts of the chosen works)
The Data (Google/Excel Sheet)
When I went about formulating my research question I originally wanted to stick with Option B and form a network based on films and actors from the film franchise Star Wars. However after soon realizing the immensity of the process due to the over 300 cast members that ranged from varying roles throughout the sagas, I chose to opt for a question that I could draw my own conclusions from rather than strictly looking at what actors appeared in the nine films in their entirety. From this I began thinking broadly about what relationships within literature I wanted to explore and how I could visually create those comparisons using Option A for this assignment. Thinking of writing styles and word usage, I ended up landing on a few interesting articles about the psychology behind stream of consciousness writing style. Peaking at a few high school favorites such as Virginia Woolf, I decided to go with William Faulker’s work The Sound and The Fury because of how I could easily compare it with his other narratives Absalom, Absalom!, and As I Lay Dying. My research question in a broad sense became how could I accurately depict the usage of first and third person words within the first 500 words of each of the previously named Faulkner novels. I hypothesized that the stream of consciousness style would contain more first person words in comparison to other writing styles utilized by Faulkner. Here I made the impactful decision to stick to one author and trace the connectedness and comparisons from Faulkner’s three works, rather than from three different authors. This decision was ultimately the correct one because of how it allowed for an increase of internal validity from any conclusions I may draw from my finalized network. After using Cytoscape to visualize a network from my edge list, I could soon see exactly how prominent language in the first person was in his novel The Sound and the Fury in comparison to his two other works I chose.
For any Princeton University student going through the course selection process, it is very likely that one thought in the back of their head is the distribution requirements they must fulfill during their four years at Princeton. The Undergraduate Announcement states: “While each student will concentrate in a discipline, a broad exposure to other kinds of knowledge will enhance students’ ability to discern what questions can be answered through methods native to their own fields and what questions require other methods.” Therefore, during the 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 academic years, students seeking an A.B. degree needed to take a certain number of courses that fell within each of seven distribution areas. While these distribution requirements may take on the shape of a checklist in the minds of students, they also offer a way to compare Princeton’s many academic departments and programs.
Daily Princetonian, Volume 125, Number 26, 9 March 2001
The Daily Princetonian Header
<ad/> <ad/> <ad/> <div1 type="nameplate"> <pb/> <head><i>THE DAILY</i> PRINCETONIAN</head> <ab><num type="volume" value="CXXV No.26">Vol. CXXV, No.26</num> <nm type="place">Princeton, New Jersey</nm>, <date value="2001-03-01">Friday, March 9, 2001</date> <date value="2001">copyright</date> <num type="cost" value="30">30 cents</num></ab> </div1>
<doc> ... ... ... <div type = "recipe"> ... ... ... <page>44</page> <pageNum>14</pageNum> <p> it down with a <tl> String </tl> as far as the water, then fire the <m> Gun Powder </m> with a <tl> hot Tool </tl>, + it will clean the well of every noxious vapor. </p> </div> <red> <dbl> </dbl> </red> <div type = "recipe"> <recNum> <red> 16 </red> </recNum> <head> <red> To Kill Buggs </red> </head> <line> </line> <p> Mix <m> Oil of Turpentine </m> with the <m> <pl> Neopolitan </pl> Ointment </m>, + smear the Bedstead, + peel into the <q> ottebes </q> where the Buggs are + they will be destroyed. </p> </div> <red> <dbl> </dbl> </red> <div type = "recipe"> <recNum> <brown> 17 </brown> </recNum> <margin> <brown> To <person> <q> Colo le tterine </q> of the Artilery at <pl> Gibralter </pl> </person> <q> [Goent OZEH]</q> </brown> </margin> <head> <brown> Pigment for Wood </brown> </head> <dbl></dbl> <p> <abr type = "recipe"> Rx </abr> <m> Pitch <qt> 10 tt </qt> </m> + <m> Tar <qt> tty </qt> </m> as much <margin> <m> Rosen <qt> tty+ </qt> </m> <m> <qt> 1 Quart </qt> <q> Fabuin </q> Oil </m> </margin> <m> Grease or oil </m> as will give it the Consistence of Paint, melt these together </p> <page> 44 </page> ... ... ... </div> ... ... ... </doc>
I was, admittedly, a bit nervous to complete this assignment because it involves a little more code than I’m used to as a humanities concentrator. However, I soon realized that the XML and TEI were not to be feared and I set about going through Thomas Adam’s Journal to find a page that I could tag. When I came across this page, which is embedded below, I decided that it was perfect for my purposes. I wanted a page with a few different entries, so that I would have some variety.
For this project, I wanted to continue looking at activism and queer activism, but specifically on Princeton’s campus. While looking through the Princeton University Archives, I came across the Queer Graduate Caucus Records, 2015-2017. This particular document from their archives is an open letter to the University administration in 2016, outlining the ways in which university policies fail its queer (graduate) students as well as suggestions for the university to address these shortcomings and create policies and spaces that support queer students.
I think that this document is interesting and potentially useful when looking at activism and social movements on campus as it captures a moment in which a student organization is seeking to engage with a large institution to create change on a policy level. They are going through existing systems, as an outside entity themselves. Thus, I think what is useful through the XML markup is looking at the structures, people, and authority hierarchies with which the Queer Graduate Caucus engages. The XML tagging and creation of hierarchy allows people to consider the relationality of individuals and advocacy organization to structural power, the affirmation and rejection of institutions in social movements and advocacy groups, and the hierarchies within the institution itself.
Because this document is born digital, there is no picture of it attached to the post.
Explanation of Thought Process
The document that I am coding is an image used to advertise an event from Muslim Student Activists. This document is interesting and potentially useful to historians that want to note what topics student activists focused on and how they advertised events. Thus, the aspects of the document that I want to preserve for researchers is noting what titles are used, how information is presented (in forms of questions or demands for instance), where and when these events take place, and images used on the poster.
Based on the elements I want to document, I want to note the relative size and importance of different elements of the text. For instance, the title can be noted using markup codes like
<head>. Additionally, I want to note the group’s hosting so code that includes elements like
<orgName> were good markup codes to use. Overall, I also used tags like question to indicate that questions were being asked, image for an image being shown, date to show a date was given for the event, and location to indicate the physical space the event was held in.
These tags made me consider how to structure the text and the hierarchy I wanted to present. I decided to make the parent tag called
<poster> to indicate that all the material within was displayed as a poster meant to advertise to people. The other elements I treated as siblings to each other since they more so denoted changes in relative importance and different parts of the same poster rather than headers or parents. For instance, I used the tags
<subhead1> to indicate that different parts of the poster were emphasized more than others through font sizes, boldness, etc.
Some questions that I had about markup while going through this exercise was how to address images within a text. I was not sure if I should just mention that there was an image or offset the image in a tag and then describe what the image was. In general, I was also not sure if the textual structure I used was appropriate and if there was a better one to consider for advertisements and posters.
The Princeton University Library’s Papers of Princeton collection offers a rich trove of multiple historic publications from Princeton — both the town and the university. A dive into this collection allows one to reconstruct life in Princeton as far back as the mid 1800s through records detailing everything from the biggest events of the day to the most mundane. In fact, the collection’s comprehensive nature even allows one to construct partial narratives of individual students’ lives in some cases. And in the case of famous alumni, this collection often contains a second story, not of a student’s life as much as of a student’s accomplishments and legacy.
Take, for example, Michelle Obama
Motivation and Background
For this digital tools assignment, I was interested in encoding a document that contained informational data, such as records or lists. I also hoped to find a source that contained many attributes within one record. While searching the Princeton University Library collections for potential documents, I came across the Sylvia Beach Papers and the accompanying Shakespeare and Company Project by Princeton’s Center for Digital Humanities. Sylvia Beach (1887 - 1962) owned and ran the Shakespeare and Company bookstore and lending library in Paris, France, serving members of European and American literary communities from 1919 to 1941. The Shakespeare and Company Project maintains a database of the books, members, and documents related to the library, using materials sourced from the Sylvia Beach collections. I was drawn to the lending library cards, which were used to document each library member’s borrowed materials. These cards contained many of the attributes I was hoping to tag, including names, addresses, book titles, and dates. Additionally, the layout of the cards led me to consider interesting questions on how to encode their contents using XML.
I was excited to begin this digital tools assignment because of the StoryMaps format, and I was happy to start delving into the 19th century American West. I decided that for this project I wanted to explore some of the broader pieces of American Manifest Destiny. Since I knew that I wanted my topic to be connected to the journal that I plan to use in my final project, I began by scanning and reading the 1853 journal of Thomas Adams from the beginning, jotting down locations he mentioned as I read (if you want to learn more about this source, you can read my previous post here). The best part of this stage was frantically searching the names of rivers and lakes, since those were the most frequently referenced landmarks. It got a little tricky for the pages when he was in Minnesota, though– they don’t call it the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” for no reason!
The Princeton University campus is riddled with the names and other symbols of countless people. Sure, many of these markers have been placed to note a donation that made possible a walkway, a building, or even an entire college. However, the campus is just as full — if not more full — of reminders of people simply there for historical reasons. This includes halls named after former University presidents, countless portraits of famous University community members, and even small, plain stars honoring those who sacrificed their life in service of the nation.
Why Pogue’s Story?
There are so many of these markers to be discovered that it is likely impossible for any individual to fully take stock of the history behind every last corner of the University campus. But taking note of just one of these markers can open a window into lives lived in days way gone by yet still very much present today.
For me, it was Samuel Franklin Pogue, Class of 1904, who caught my attention
Within this StoryMap Assignment I hoped to form a continuation of what I discussed in my first Digital Tools Assignment. As I began to narrow down my ideas, and the realization sunk in that tackling a multitude of love letters throughout history would be an impossible task to manage in a short period of time like one semester. Instead, I chose to stick to the idea of tracing someone’s life as it related to what was happening in history at that moment as well as how it influenced their interpersonal relationships. Still obsessed with the object of letters, both handwritten and typed, I stuck firm with the idea of tracing someone’s life through the words they wrote (and sometimes the words others wrote about them). Now, the only task left was to pluck a person out of history whose public life is well known but misconstrued at times. Somebody who can be found among the ranks of the greats, who seems untouchable and almost divinely-influenced by the work they produced in their field. While the names of greats throughout modern history floated around in my thought process, it took a simple trip outside of my dorm room to (quite literally) encounter the path of a great. Currently, I am residing in Walker Hall, home of a gorgeous arch that houses the Einstein Walk plaque that signifies the path that Albert Einstein would walk from his home to his office on Princeton’s campus. Maybe it was divine inspiration, or the quantum mechanics gods sending one last whiff of pre-midterms hope my way, nonetheless I had found a great in someone that has a direct influence on our University and in my personal academic studies; Albert Einstein.
My choice of Einstein also went hand in hand with the access to the archival material I would have through the series of books released by Princeton University Press in 1987. Starting with The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein Volume 1: The Early Years, 1879-1902”]1 , I slowly but surely tackled German, French, and Hebrew translations with helpful footnotes that indicated the place of the paper in relation to Einstein’s life. I ended up using a miscellaneous collection of texts from Volumes 1-10 in this collection as they pertained to my research. While it became clear that this collection of books would be my primary source for this assignment, however I hoped to expand further out to see what other Universities or institutions had to offer in regard to any letters from or to Einstein. From here I found an additional text by Princeton University Press that housed the love letters between Einstein and his first wife Mileva Maric. As I neared the age of WWII, I also needed to pull from sources like the League of Nations archives and textbooks referencing the making of the atomic bomb. Nearing the end of Einstein’s life, I found myself reaching for more personal letters, and even came across a recent New York Times article regarding one of his final letters he wrote only a year before his death in 1955. Although my sources vary greatly, I feel as if the multitude of organizations and institutions that house these archived documents (or copies/translations of them) are a showcasing of Einstein’s direct impact on different levels of government, educational institutions, and even religious organizations.
Journeys and Journals
This unknown region had long attracted me. With a desire to know more about the country extending from the McKinley range of Mountains to the Southern Coast, we determined to explore the valley of the Great Shushitna and its principal tributaries, which drain thousands of square miles in the very heart of Alaska. - Nellie Martin Wade, “Through Interior Alaska on Horseback and The Scenic Coast Route”
For this digital tools assignment, I chose to explore the manuscript by Nellie Martin Wade that I discussed in my last post. This manuscript includes a highly organized narrative of Wade’s trip to Alaska in 1907, whose goals and motivations are described in the above quote. I was particularly struck by the language and poetic tone of Wade’s writing. I wanted to find a way to capture her descriptions and express them through images by mapping out the journey she describes in her journal. Along this goal, I hoped to contextualize her journey and better understand what external factors might have led Wade to visit Alaska, as well as who else came to Alaska before Wade.
In thinking about mapping and what maps can reveal to a reader, my thoughts kept centering around the physical use and acessibility of space (or lack thereof). Activism and advocacy, as redefined by ACT UP and the AIDS activism movement, centered itself around the usage of space, often creating, finding, invading spaces in order to bring awareness to the issues at hand. New York City, a city which simulatenously unites and sgregates, acted as one of the main places for ACT UP demonstrations and actions through the ’80s and ’90s - the other being Washington D.C. Entering exclusionary spaces, such as Wall Street or the New York Stock Exchange, which were not made for marginalized identities, or public places like Central Park, meant for public consumption rather than political revolution, becomes a transgressive and radical act. ACT UP embraced this mentality and sought to shake up people’s perceptions through their activism. In this way, ACT UP was able to target pharmaceutical comapnies and other corporations that profited from the AIDS epidemic as well as hold the government accountable for its lack of response.
Thus in this mapping project, I sought to use StoryMaps to present a narrative through which a reader could see the development of ACT UP demonstrations by the powerless in spaces made for the powerful.
What historical narrative are you trying to express?
I am looking at some of the earliest examples of board games to get a sense for how and when board games developed in ancient Europe and Asia.
One particularly interesting aspect of this historical narrative is looking at how board games in different locations arose for different purposes. In an analogous manner to how writing arose or was popularized in different ancient cultures for specific uses such as religion or accounting, many early board games were developed with specific non-entertainment goals in mind. I hope to be able to show both the existence of the motives as well as illustrate how aspects of the board game such as when it was created and the type of game were influenced by these motives and ultimately by the inventing society’s culture.
Motivation for the Map
- What historical narrative are you trying to express?
The historical narrative that I am attempting to express is that of the rich history of activism and attempts of inclusion at Princeton University. I believe that inclusion and activism are intertwined. When a community has a greater focus on inclusion, it is forced to look in more detail at its potential faults and faults of the world around it. For instance, as observed in the story map, the inclusion of people of color and women at university changed how the community viewed racism and sexism. As a result, more activists demonstrations were made in order to promote anti-racism and anti-sexism. This mindset of questioning brought on by inclusion can be applied to other issues as well. For instance, Princeton had anti-war protests during the Vietnam war. In my opinion, this form of activism did not just appear coincidentally at a time when women and people of color were entering the community. Rather, their entrance helped to make people question assumptions they held and institutions more broadly.
What are your chosen sources and where are they located?
The sources that I am considering using are:
First, a collection of Japanese Board Games dating from the 19th century and first half of the 20th century that can be found in the PUL Japanese Game Boards
Secondly, I am also considering using Japanese Portraits from the 18th and 19th century that can be found in the PUL Japanese and Chinese Prints and Drawings Collection
What would you like your readers/viewers to know about the sources?
I would like readers to see the similarities differences in color usage between Japanese game boards and portraits and understand what such comparisons could tell us about the role and status of these items in Japanese society.
I was personally struck by the chaos and clutter present in Japanese Game Boards as it contrasted with the monotony and simplicity (or at least some sort of clearness/ lack of clutter) of the Japanese portraits. This difference can be seen in the following example pictures:
In the university’s nearly 300 year history, Princeton has seen its campus grow dramatically from the individual Nassau Hall that once contained everything except the bathrooms to hundreds of acres from Nassau Street to across Carnegie Lake. Every step in this expansion from colonial college to modern research university has shaped life on campus, and in turn, campus life has been embedded into the physical campus itself. This can readily be seen in some of the maps created of the campus throughout the 20th century.
The Stories A Map Holds
In the age of Google Maps and other similar products, maps can be seen simply as tools to help us get through the day. Guiding us from one place to another, informing us of the traffic on various roads, displaying as much information as possible about every business along a street — these are just a handful of the ways a map functions primarily as a tool today. These types of maps traffic strictly in accurate representation and factual information; even the subway maps that are often highly designed in posters and pamphlets are returned to geographical truth.
However, this version of a map diminishes another of their functions: storyteller. While the maps found in phone apps today may be constrained by some representational duty, previous maps have relished in providing snippets of life in the places they illustrate — even if at the cost of greater detail in street layouts or building perimeters. The Princeton campus lends itself well to these storytelling maps with its many years as witness to student life and life outside the Orange Bubble.
For my project, the basic topic that I want to look into is activism on college campuses, perhaps solely focused on Princeton. I am interested in this topic partially because I am involved in some activism on campus and also because lots of movements have ties or roots in college campuses. As a result, I believe that looking at activism on campus can also be a good way to see beginnings of and the progression of liberal ideas in society.
This article explains the importance and history of student activism which gives more context for my above statements.
I am interested in exploring private forms of communication (diaries, letters, etc.) from the Western Americana Collection. In particular, I am curious about women’s perspectives on exploration and settlement in the Western United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of the written materials in the collection were produced by men, especially those surrounding exploration. I found one manuscript (pictured below) written by Nellie Martin Wade titled “Through Interior Alaska on Horseback and the Scenic Coast Route” on her exploration of Alaska in the early 20th century. Notably, Wade includes in the title page that she is the “first woman to explore the Great Shushitna Valley and the Mt. McKinley Range.”
As we delve further into the digital humanities this semester, I am interested in exploring the development of public parks in 1930s New York and their roles in reifying and perpetuating social norms. The public park movement presented itself as a way to introduce open, green spaces into otherwise crowded, grey, concrete cities. But public parks acted as exclusionary spaces in the 1930s, both in their construction and patronage. Many of the iconic parks of New York such as Central Park were built in part by the Works Progress Administration of the New Deal and influenced by the City Beautification Movement, which promoted neo-classical building styles and Euro-centric models of beautification. At the same time as space was being created for the express purpose of leisure, the city of New York was itself undergoing changes in its composition. The Homeowners Loan Corporation, formed as a part of the New Deal, began categorizing neighborhoods according to how risky they believed loans to people in those neighborhoods would be. This marks the beginning of what we call today redlining, which served as a way of limiting the spaces in which poor people, people of color, and immigrants could exist. Thus, New York is undergoing this paradoxical change in the 1930s, wherein space is being both created and limited.
After taking some time to research Digital Humanities (DH) projects that are currently published from university research teams across the world, I believe I have found the type of website or digital platform that I would want to create for my final project in HUM 331. While digital humanities projects range across historical time periods, and also utilize different website formats and platforms, I am hoping to bring to fruition the idea of letting an old manuscript or archived document “come to life” in a format that directly reflects the origins of my selected texts. To better put this concept into perspective, I want to provide an example of a more generic website format for a DH project such as the Colored Conventions Project. If you click on the link you are taken directly to a website that houses a way to see the efforts of black organizations since the 19th century. While the style of the site is pleasing to the eye, I am hoping to take the approach of an interactive site such as Exposed. In this take on a digital humanity project, creator Sharon Daniel and programmer Erik Loyer showcase the inhumanity of the United States criminal justice system through an interactive experience where the site visitor clicks keys on their computer to move across varying statements from different prisoners in the past two years. The quotes that stick out from these hearings, the most truthful, and shocking, are displayed in a bold font in the center of the screen as the lottery-style slots roll through.
Finding a source
Last week, when our class explored the Princeton University Library digital archives, I was excited to see what Firestone’s special collections had to offer. I decided to look at the Western Americana Collection, since I knew I wanted a source that was written in English. If you scroll the collection, you’ll undoubtedly notice the many photographs and newspaper clippings. But I was interested in the many journals and letters handwritten by those who had traveled West during the 19th Century. I clicked through a lot of journals– I was specifically hoping to find one written by a woman. Although I didn’t find that, I did come across one journal that intrigued me more than the rest.