Blog Post #6: Conducting an Environmental Scan / Reviewing a Digital History Project

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This week, my Digital History class was asked to look around at other digital projects to find similar work being done and to review the work.

My digital project uses mapping, timeline, and storytelling features to allow for a cultural and musical “treasure hunt” with famed Federal Writers’ Project researchers such as Stetson Kennedy, Alan Lomax, and Zora Neale Hurston. I am using a platform called VisualEyes to make my digital project. Because my project centers on music, I looked around for another VisualEyes project that also features music. Interestingly, the only other VisualEyes project that I could find that centered on music was a digital thesis project by my fellow University of Central Florida colleague, Robert Clarke, entitled “The Spatial Relationship between Labor, Cultural Migration, and the Development of Folk Music in the American South”.

I examined and reviewed Robert Clarke’s thesis project by using the Organization of American Historians (OAH) Digital History Review Guidelines. I addressed the following areas:

Content: Is the scholarship sound and current? What is the interpretation or point of view?

According to the project’s creator, Robert Clarke, the purpose of the project is to “reveal the spatial dimensions of three distinct regions —the greater Chesapeake (Virginia/North Carolina/), the coastal lowlands and Sea Islands of the Gullah Corridor (Charleston/Savannah), and Louisiana (New Orleans). The end result is an educational and potential research tool that affords viewers a more dynamic perspective on the relationship between agricultural slave labor, migration patterns, and folk music than is possible with text alone.” The project is well researched and contains a variety of primary resources such as census records and accounts concerning migration patterns, field recordings, diaries, and other personal records. Clarke also includes a plethora of maps. His inclusion of a variety of historic maps is impressive. Among the many maps featured in the project, Clarke includes a hand colored map from 1828 showing the various tribes of West and Central Africa, a map of the Atlantic World during the Slave Trade’s rise in the Americas, and other maps from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection including an 1815 map of New Orleans, a 1825 map of Charleston, and additional maps of Virginia and South Carolina. There are plenty of other maps to explore as well. Clarke also includes a tobacco cultivation timeline, a rice cultivation timeline, and information about sugar cultivation in Louisiana. Clarke’s point of view concerning the influence of African music on southern folk music is backed up by his research. The project is current and has sound scholarship.

Form: Is it clear? Easy to navigate? Does it function effectively? Does it have a clear, effective, and original design? Does it have a coherent structure?

The project’s purpose is clear and the project is easy to navigate. However, because the project is a few years old, there seems to be an issue pertaining to Map Scholar that does not allow proper navigation on the interactive map. Sometimes, I click on a hyperlink and nothing happens; the information simply will not load. Still, the project’s design structure is coherently organized.

Audience/Use: Is it directed at a clear audience? Will it serve the needs of that audience?

The digital project seems to be directed at a wide audience. Educators, students, music lovers, professional historians, or even arm chair history buffs would appreciate the informative content about the African origins of folk music in the American South. The project offers quite a lot of material pertaining to the topic, so I assume that it would serve the needs of most members of the audience. The project allows for a guided experience, but users can also click around and explore it at will. Therefore, they are free to research aspects of the topic that are of particular interest to them.

New Media: Does it make effective use of new media and new technology? Does it do something that could not be done in other media—print, exhibition, film?

As a historian who seeks to examine music in my thesis project, Clarke’s project appeals to me. One of its major strengths (other than those amazing maps) lies in its inclusion of audio clips of songs. The project centers on music, so Clarke utilizes audio and video files to tell a story pertaining to the African roots of southern folk music. The project features audio clips such as a Chesapeake folk song called Old Corn Liquor, a video/audio clip of Mrs. Bertha Smith and The Moving Star Hall Singers of John’s Island, South Carolina, an audio recording of Esau Jenkins describing the significance of the “Shout”, audio of Ben Bligen singing, a recording about the Sierra Leone Shout, and a Gullah-Geechee Special Resource Study. The use of the audio files, video files, and the visual spatial dynamics make the project come to life. Had Clarke chosen to write a traditional thesis, I do not think that his project would have been as powerful. It simply would not have been enough to just read about the music. After all, music is meant to be heard.

As either Elvis Costello or Martin Mull once said (it is debated), “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Clarke’s digital thesis project indicates that he understands the challenges of writing a history master’s thesis about music. Clarke cleverly includes an auditory approach to convey his argument. That is what I attempt to do with my VisualEyes project as well. I thought that my idea of writing about folk music and then supplementing my research with visualizations and audio recordings was an original concept, but Robert Clarke and other digital historians are increasingly turning to digital platforms like VisualEyes. Clarke’s approach shows that modern historians do not have to limit their research to simply writing about historical topics, particularly when it comes to examining music and history.

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Blog Post #5: Interactive Visualizations

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Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, I often think of myself as a writer who stumbled into the digital world. I have always expressed myself best with my writing, but I have discovered that sometimes words will not do. In the first semester of graduate school, I started forming my idea for my master’s thesis. I pondered writing about the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) and their discoveries pertaining to Florida folk music during the Depression. I originally assumed that my thesis would be a traditional thesis, but it did not take long to realize that my ideas for my thesis should not be limited to the written word. I soon discovered that I would have to incorporate another medium into my thesis in order to successfully communicate my vision in the best way possible.

In my mind’s eye, I saw an interactive map of Florida. I also wanted the users to be able to guide themselves through individual folk collecting journeys that took place throughout the state in the 1930s and 1940s. It was important to me that people would be able to listen to the music and “meet” the song collectors and tradition bearers. Luckily, I found out that with digital platforms like VisualEyes5 I could turn my vision into a reality. Realizing that my ideas are not limited to paper makes me feel an unusual sense of freedom.

This week, I read a book that reiterated to me that I made the right decision to “break away” from traditional avenues in order to effectively communicate my ideas about Florida folk music and the FWP. David J. Staley’s Computers, Visualization, and History: How New Technology Will Transform Our Understanding of the Past invites historians to take advantage of the opportunities that computers and visualization offer to their scholarship. Staley indicates that, while historians have been using the written word as their medium for more than two thousand years, they now have an alternative medium that they can utilize to present a historical argument or to organize their research. Staley’s book should be required reading for any historian, especially those who have ideas that are too complex to express in writing.

In his book, Staley defines a visualization as the “organization of meaningful information in two or three dimensional spatial form intended to further a systematic inquiry”. According to Staley, visualizations are sometimes preferable to textual approaches because visualizations allow the creator to convey “simultaneity, multidimensionality, pattern, and nonlinearity with a speed and efficiency that prose cannot capture.” However, throughout the book, Staley is careful to point out that visualization is not a superior form of communication. He only claims that it is an alternative for those historians who do not want to limit their vision to the written word. Staley’s book highlights the fact that language and writing are sequential while events and actions are often simultaneous. Therefore, the written word might not always be the best medium to convey certain types of thoughts or ideas.

Staley describes historians of the past as being trapped in their “medium of thought” and overly dependent upon writing about history in a linear way. Historians have long embraced the one dimensional textual medium, primarily because of tradition and habit. Interestingly, Staley’s book points out that humans do not perceive the world in a one dimensional way. Instead, as psychologist Rudolf Arnheim indicates, human awareness operates in a “four dimensional world of both sequence and spatial simultaneity.” For that reason, historians should consider utilizing visualizations to relay information.

Staley’s book is relevant to my work as a historian because I have had ideas for books or articles that I wanted to write but I could not seem to articulate them well with text. For instance, I once drew a sketch of an idea about a journey though America that highlights Bob Dylan’s musical inspirations from blues to country to folk music. I have a hard time even putting the idea into words, but I can see it in my head. The point is that I originally had this idea years ago, and now I know how to make it “come to life” through the use of visualizations. I am no longer limited to exploring historical topics in a one dimensional, sequential, linear way. In the Digital Age, I feel that historians are only confined by the limits of their imaginations (and by the availability of primary and secondary sources, of course). With visualizations, I can better communicate my ideas for my thesis project about music and place.

Source:
Staley, David. Computers, Visualization, and History: How New Technology Will Transform Our Understanding of the Past. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 2014.

Blog Post #4- GIS and Spatial History

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A recentish screenshot of a spatial history digital project I am currently working on for my master’s thesis. I have a lot of work yet to do!

This week, my “History in the Digital Age” class is learning more about GIS/spatial history. Our professor asked us to read Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship, edited by Anne Kelly Knowles and Amy Hillier, in order to gain a better understanding of the topic. The 2008 book contains ten essays which include case studies that highlight the potential opportunities and possible issues pertaining to GIS and spatial history.

If you are not a digital historian, an archaeologist, a geographer, or a fellow classmate of mine, you might be asking yourself, “What is GIS?”

As Anne Kelly Knowles and Amy Hillier explain in the book’s preface, GIS stands for “geographic information systems”. It is essentially a computer software that allows for the visual analysis of information in a geographic context. Historical GIS, or HGIS, is an approach to the study of history that uses GIS based methods. GIS is often used in historical research to uncover patterns, trends, or relationships. According to the book, historical GIS scholarship has certain defining characteristics. First of all, geographical questions often drive the research. Geographical data provides some of the historical evidence. In addition to text, HGIS makes historical arguments through the use of maps, images, graphs, and tables. Historical GIS is increasingly utilized in historical research in order to visualize or reconstruct places, spaces, or landscapes. With GIS, historians are permitted to not only better understand hidden patterns and relationships, but also to examine changes that have taken place over time.

In the book, Anne Kelly Knowles asserts that GIS is a “superb tool” due to the possibilities it offers through its mapping components. As Knowles points out, GIS offers innovative mapping options and allows researchers to geographically visualize information derived from census records, surveys, and other methodically collected data. However, Knowles also describes GIS as somewhat “problematic” for historians. Knowles claims that the precision of GIS, a feature that makes it so attractive for use in scientific and statistical analysis, is challenging for historians because “it can make it an awkward instrument for historical research when sources cannot easily be reduced to entries in a tabular database.” Knowles also notes that GIS is problematic for historians because of its visual and mathematical characteristics. Historians are not inclined to accept visual images as sources of evidence, and they are not overly interested in the quantitative methods that were so heavily featured in the short-lived Cliometrics turn of the 1970s. Knowles refers to an “epistemological divide between geography and history” as another problem for historians who wish to use geospatial methods in their research.

As Amy Hillier explains in Chapter 3, GIS can be used to identify a specific historical question. Hillier recommends that those who endeavor to use GIS as an analytical tool should first ask themselves questions such as, “What is spatial about this research? Why does space matter? What relationships does the map reveal? How else can the same data be modeled?” Hillier affirms that those who are interested in integrating GIS into scholarship will inevitably have to deal with doubts and anxieties, but those who dare to explore it will acquire technical abilities, develop analytical skills, and learn valuable lessons.

While there are some limitations pertaining to the use of GIS and other spatial components in research, digital tools offer innovative ways to study and present spatial history. Historian Fernand Braudel himself would appreciate the limitless possibilities presented by the integration of digital tools and spatial history. Historical GIS/spatial mapping components allow researchers to explore a variety of historical topics in ways that would not be possible using traditional tools or methods. For example, in Chapter 4 of the book Geoff Cunfer explains how GIS technology enables researchers to answer age old historical questions concerning the causes of the Dust Bowl by using extensive county by county agricultural data, weather information, personal accounts, and newspaper articles as evidence.

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“Fleeing a dust storm”. Farmer Arthur Coble and sons walking in the face of a dust storm, Cimmaron County, Oklahoma. Arthur Rothstein, photographer, April, 1936. (Library of Congress)

Finally, I would like to conclude my blog by mentioning my own foray into spatial history. My digital thesis project “Mapping the Song Collecting Journeys of the Federal Writers’ Project in Depression-Era Florida” uses digital tools to explore the spatial dynamics of folk music in Florida during the 1930s and 1940s. My project heavily features a mapping component in order to highlight not only the music that was made by ordinary Floridians, but also to showcase the cultural diversity, the geography, and the social aspects of Florida during that time. I do not think that my project would be possible or useful without the application of digital tools and the inclusion of an interactive map of Florida. I am excited by the possibilities that spatial and digital history offer for my research topic. I am amazed at how my thesis idea concerning Florida folk music has been brought to life. Incorporating digital tools into my research has allowed me to implement visualizations and interactive mapping tools that help answer my historical question about the Federal Writers’ Project and their song collecting expeditions in Florida during the Depression.

Source:
Knowles, Anne Kelly, Amy Hillier, eds. Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands: ESRI Press, 2008.

Blog Post #3: The Pasts and Futures of Digital History

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This week, our professor wanted us to explore the pasts and futures of digital history by examining the writings of well-known and respected scholars and historians such as Ed Ayers, William G. Thomas III, Daniel J. Cohen, Roy Rosenzweig, and others. These names have become familiar to me as they are pioneers of digital history.

This week’s readings continued to discuss the definition of “digital history”. In an article called “What is Digital History?”, Douglas Seefeldt and William G. Thomas III describe digital history as “an approach to examining and representing the past that works with the new communication technologies of the computer, the internet network, and software systems.” They further explain that digital history is meant to “create a framework through technology for people to experience, read, and follow an argument about a major historical problem.” By now, I have read numerous definitions for digital history, and every definition understandably suggests that digital history utilizes computer technology to examine historical topics. I cannot help but wonder if that is the only difference between digital history and traditional history. While I understand the desire to define the nascent field, I do not believe that digital history and traditional history are so different that they have to be perceived as being separate from one another. I feel that it might be a mistake to make such a distinction between the two. I suppose we will see if I change my mind about that after I ponder the topic more. (Thomas and Seefeldt, “What is Digital History?”)

Alas, if they are indeed the same thing, than what distinguishes digital history from the “traditional” field of history? In my opinion, the main difference between traditional history and digital history stems from the possibilities that digital history offers. Computer technology has altered the way that historical research is performed. Historians can ask new and different historical questions. Furthermore, technological advancements allow one to search vast digital archives without having to leave home or travel great distances. Historians can now easily sift through large quantities of historical data in a short amount of time. Another difference between traditional and digital history is the way that technology has given the public an opportunity to engage with history more fully. Mapping tools, visualizations, podcasts, digital archives, audio recordings, and other digital tools allow for new ways for scholars and for ordinary people to present and analyze history. Digital history permits the academic world and the public to delve into history together, in a democratizing way that is truly inspiring. As a historian who is interested in cultural history and in uncovering the voices of the common people, I believe that digital history can bring attention to those perspectives that have long been overlooked.

One of my favorite projects that were mentioned in the readings this week is the digital project Railroads and the Making of Modern America. The project’s purpose is to document the “social effects of railroads and to explore the transformation of the United States to modern ideas, institutions, and practices in the nineteenth century.” The project was created by William G. Thomas III along with a large, collaborative team that consisted of graduate students, cartographers, encoders, transcribers, librarians, historians, and computer programmers. Railroads and the Making of Modern America is an exemplary digital project because it highlights the impact of the railroad in ways that traditional historical approaches would not have. The project is also a good example of the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of digital history. Indeed, no digital project exists that was made by one person. That aspect of digital history is democratizing in itself.

This week, our class became acquainted with the promises and perils of “doing” digital history, as identified by Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, leading scholar-practitioners. In Promises and Perils of Digital History, the authors pinpoint some advantages for historians who choose to take part in the world of digital media. According to Cohen and Rosenzweig, the benefits of such an undertaking pertain to capacity, accessibility, flexibility, diversity, manipulability, interactivity, and hypertextuality. Cohen and Rosenzweig also discuss five dangers digital historians face concerning issues with quality, durability, readability, passivity, and inaccessibility. While it is helpful to understand the positive and negative aspects of “doing” digital history, it need not be intimidating. There are promises and perils in every field. Being overly concerned with the possible pitfalls of digital history might unnecessarily deter historians from embracing innovative approaches or perceiving new ways to explore history. (Cohen and Rosenzweig, Chapter 1, Promises and Perils of Digital History )

Blog Post #2 – Debates in Digital Humanities

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This week, our professor asked us to read Debates in the Digital Humanities, a book of essays edited by Matthew K. Gold. The 2012 book is divided into six parts that pertain to defining, theorizing, critiquing, practicing, teaching, and envisioning the digital humanities. The book is valuable as a handbook for anyone who is interested in delving into the world of digital humanities.

Throughout the book, the authors attempt to define digital humanities and the role of digital humanists. The book contains at least thirty definitions for digital humanities. (1) In his essay, Matthew Kirschenbaum claims that Wikipedia’s definition of digital humanities is as good as any that he has seen. Wikipedia calls digital humanities “a field of study, research, teaching, and invention concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities.”(2) Wikipedia goes on to describe it as “methodological” and “interdisciplinary”. While some may scoff at deriving information from Wikipedia, it is interesting to note that the site itself adheres to the goals of digital humanities, which is to engage with the public in a transparent, interdisciplinary, and collaborative way.(3)

Kathleen Fitzpatrick defines digital humanities as “a nexus of fields within which scholars use computing technologies to investigate the kinds of questions that are traditional to the humanities.” (4) Meanwhile, Lisa Spiro cautions against attempts to “pigeonhole” digital humanities by defining it. Instead of concentrating on a definition, she focuses on the “values” of digital humanities, such as public involvement, collaboration, and transparency. While the authors seem unable to give a succinct definition for digital humanities, the characteristics are discussed repeatedly. According to several of the essays in the book, collaboration, transparency, interdisciplinarity, experimentation, and public engagement are all essential aspects of digital humanities. (5)

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The book depicts digital humanists as the hippies of the humanities world. In such an interdisciplinary and collaborative field, making connections and building a sense of community seems to come naturally. Digital humanists are eager to exchange ideas and they often seek out different skills, projects, and viewpoints. (6)

In the book, author Rafael C. Alvarado compares THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) to Woodstock. I have to agree with his comparison. I personally noticed this lively “hippie” atmosphere myself while participating in THATCamp last year. There is something electrifying about taking part in digital humanities events like THATCamp because people are clearly excited about their projects and ideas, and everyone seems glad to listen and to help one another bring their digital projects to life. It is that inclusive, innovative, and enthusiastic atmosphere that draws me into the digital humanities. (7)

Our professor also asked us to pick a specific part of the book to discuss in class. I chose Part V: Teaching the Digital Humanities. The section of the book concerning teaching further indicates that digital humanities are “reinvigorating” humanities instruction. Indeed, historians are realizing that digital humanities can be used to augment student learning in significant ways. Part V highlights ways in which digital projects, blogging, web based peer review, online discussion boards, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can help students develop “digital literacy”. (8)

Part V is also a little gloomy as it repeatedly claims that the humanities are threatened. The book conveys the sense that, as digital media is increasingly embraced, traditional humanist educators will be left behind if they do not jump on the digital bandwagon. It seems that the book views digital humanities as a sort of life jacket found on the Titanic at the last minute. On occasion, there is an “us and them” feel to the debates surrounding digital humanities that, in my eyes, is not productive. Digital humanists almost seem to be viewed as a threat to traditional humanities, but I do not think it has to be that way. I see digital humanities as a supplement to traditional scholarship rather than its replacement. (9)

Notes
(1) Debates in the Digital Humanities, 67-71.
(2) Debates, 4.
(3) Debates, 4, 16-30.
(4) Debates, 12.
(5) Debates, 16-30.
(6) Debates, 16-17, 22, 51.
(7) Debates, 50-51.
(8) Debates, 354, 360.
(9) Debates, 362.

Blog Post #1 – What is Digital Humanities?

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Futurist Art By Art Radebaugh

This is the first week of a new semester! This semester, I am in a class called “History in the Digital Age”. The title of the class sounds so futuristic. I took the seminar associated with this class last semester, and I am glad to be able to delve further into readings related to digital humanities during this course. The topic of digital humanities directly pertains to my thesis project on Florida folk music during the Depression because it contains digital components (see my past blog posts for more information about that). The first assignment for our class was to read a book called Digital_Humanities by Anne Burdick et al. The book’s purpose is to stress ways in which digital tools, methods, and design can enhance scholarly practices, particularly in the humanities. The overall argument of the book is that digital humanities breathe much needed life into traditional humanities. The book seeks to indicate ways in which digital tools and platforms can enhance and reinvigorate “humanistic scholarship”. (1)

Digital_Humanities discusses the emergence of the humanities as a field and touches upon the history of digitization from the first wave in the late 1940s to the modern era, the Digital Age. The book describes digital history milestones and mentions notable digital projects and experiments that occurred along the way. The book also emphasizes the importance of design as a research technique. Throughout the book, the five authors highlight collaboration, interpretation, and experimentation. Interestingly, several paragraphs discuss the importance of experiencing and accepting failure. Indeed, the book encourages failure as a way to learn and improve. As someone who is currently attempting to make a digital project and has had many moments of trial and error, it is good to be reminded that it takes time and effort to create a good digital project. (2)

Digital_Humanities contains five case studies of digital humanities projects. The case studies are all fascinating, but the one that interests me the most is “Case Study I: Mapping Differential Geographies in the New World Encounter”. The fictional project combines thick mapping, data mining, distant reading, text analysis, and language processing in order to examine the different concepts of geographic boundaries that were held by the Europeans and the indigenous peoples of the New World during the early days of contact. The project utilizes “thick mapping” techniques, which involve digitally visualizing geographic data to reveal meaningful information about history through time and space. I have recently discovered that I am interested in thick mapping and spatial history. For that reason, I was drawn to Case Study I. As with most digital projects, Case Study I would require abundant time and interdisciplinary collaboration to become a reality. The five case studies illustrate the exciting possibilities offered by digital humanities projects. (3)

The book ends with a chapter entitled “A Short Guide to the Digital_Humanities”. The guide is thorough and extensive. The section includes questions and answers pertaining to the definition of digital humanities and explains the objectives and challenges inherent in the digital approach. The short guide also contains a set of guidelines to evaluate digital humanities projects and includes a list of the “fundamental elements” necessary to create them. The section also contains a list of basic essential skills needed to make digital projects, and contains a list of expected learning outcomes. (4)

Ultimately, the book sees digital humanities and traditional humanities as functioning in concert with one another. While the authors stress that the humanities are not in crisis, they make a case that digital humanities can be utilized to reinvigorate the traditional humanities. The book reads as a rallying cry for traditional historians to embrace digital humanities, to re-envision concepts of authorship, and to understand the principles of design. At the same time, the authors highlight the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and imagination. (5)

The book actually inspires me to keep trekking along on the digital history path that I stumbled upon last year. The classes I have taken as a graduate student have helped me realize that concepts such as thick mapping and spatial history speak to me as a historian. Digital tools and platforms fit perfectly with my research interests. Digital_Humanities indicates that there is a place in my field where I can explore my interests concerning movement over time and space. Historians, humanists, and educators in the Digital Age have an opportunity to break away from the traditional path of scholarship. Digital history frees the imagination of the creator and the user because ideas that were once confined to the pages of books can now be brought to life with the help of mapping, visualizations, and other digital history methods. (6)

End Notes

(1) DH, 7-9.
(2) DH, 5-16, 21-24, 36.
(3) DH, 61-70.
(4) SG, 122-135.
(5) DH, 7, 15, 24, 44, 49, 57, 76.
(6) DH, 18, 49-50, 61, 103, 118.

Blog Post #8: Keep Moving!

For this week’s blog, our professor asked us to report on our progress over the last few weeks. In recent weeks, I have been researching the folk music collecting expeditions of the Works Progress Administration through the “Federal One” project and examining the music collecting expeditions that took place in Florida between 1935 and 1940. See previous blog postings of mine for more information on my project goals. I even had the opportunity to interview pioneering folklorist Peggy Bulger on the topic of the undertakings of “Federal One” in Florida. She gave me some ideas concerning who to talk to and where to look to find more information.

For the purposes of our class this semester, Dr. French recommended that I concentrate on representing one or two expeditions in my project rather than attempting to delve into all of them. I decided that the best place to start was the beginning, so I will likely concentrate on the first one, the Elizabeth Barnicle-Alan Lomax-Zora Neale Hurston expedition in Florida in 1935 in which they visited Eatonville, Belle Glade, and Chosen, Florida. Hurston and Barnicle clashed with one another, but both women thought highly of young Lomax. A set of 24 discs were recorded by Zora Neale Hurston, Mary Elizabeth Barnicle and Alan Lomax in June of 1935. They found harmonica songs, jook songs, blues, hollers, ballads, and a religious song or two. Here is a sample of a recording they made of “The Weeping Worry Blues”. The song was recorded in Belle Glade, which was a gathering-place for the Everglades region’s seasonal agricultural workers.

I was really interested in examining Zora’s work in the turpentine camp of Cross City, but that expedition occurred in 1939 with Stetson Kennedy and was not part of the original trip with Lomax and Barnicle. However, even if I am unable to mention the turpentine camp expedition in my digital project this semester, I will include it in my final thesis project.

I am reading a very informative book on the topic called Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World by John Szwed. I am also reading Hurston’s book Mules and Men in which she discusses the folk music and tales she collected during that time. I am intrigued by the idea of twenty year old Texan Alan Lomax traveling with two women across the South. Floridian Hurston, an anthropologist and writer, and Barnicle, a professor at New York University, were in their forties at the time. The three songcatchers may have seemed different from one another, but they were all folklorists with a passion for preserving folk music. I am looking forward to going on the journey with them through my home state of Florida.

I also spent time looking into potentially using VisualEyes to create my digital project. I decided to explore VisualEyes after viewing other great digital projects that have been made with it. For instance, the project Jefferson’s Travels is an interactive site that traces Thomas Jefferson’s journeys in London, England in 1786.

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A screen shot from Jefferson’s Travels, a VisualEyes project.

The project includes an interactive timeline. It also traces the mail sent and received by Jefferson, and even allows users to browse the collection of books in his “retirement library”. The site will allow me to make a timeline and a map, and I hope it will let me utilize audio as well. I am not very far along in my exploration of VisualEyes. I have a spreadsheet template that I will use to create my project. That is what I am working on this week. VisualEyes offers step by step instructions, so it should be doable, although it might be a little complicated at first. Meanwhile, I also want to find a Florida map from 1935-1940 in order to create a vintage looking map overlay. I found some really cool maps in the David Rumsey Map Collection, but so far I have not found a Florida map from the 1930s or 1940s that I really like.

I will close my blog with one of my favorite things that I came across this week. Stetson Kennedy wrote about a music collecting visit he made to the Clara White Mission, a soup kitchen in Jacksonville. Clara’s daughter, a philanthropist named Eartha White, says into the recorder, “Dear Lord, this is Eartha White talkin’ to you again. I just want to thank you for giving mankind the intelligence to make such a marvelous machine (the portable recorder), and a president like Franklin D. Roosevelt who cares about preserving the songs people sing.”

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Eartha White and her mother, Clara, of the Clara White Mission in Jacksonville, Florida.

I think Ms. White’s words sum up why the work of the WPA and “Federal One” in Florida was so meaningful to American history. The recordings preserved aspects of life in Florida during the early twentieth century that might have otherwise been lost to time. Until next week, I will be exploring VisualEyes for my digital project. Stay tuned as I uncover more folk music treasures in Florida.