Theodor Seuss Geisel and his perspective on the war

Dr. Seuss Went to War: A Catalog of Political Cartoons. Created by Richard H. Minear, The University of California, Reviewed Apr. 2019.

Trench warfare, Pacific battles, and enslaved populace are common themes when one thinks about WWII. Often Overlooked are other areas influential to the thoughts and emotions associated with the war. Much of these emotionswere incubated on the backs of visual propaganda. The most widely known examples of propaganda are those used by the Germans in portraying allied forces in a negative light. Lesser knownare the war illustrations of Theodor Seuss Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. A far stretch from Green Eggs and Ham, the collection of illustrations catalogued on Dr Seuss Went to Warare reminiscent of Geisel’s personal and emotional take on the war from 1941 till 1943, while working as chief editor cartoonist at the liberal-leaning, New York newspaper PM.

First, I’d like to address the layout of this site. The University of California at San Diego did an excellent job at cataloging the work of Geisel into relative sections so that viewers can go directly to the specific areas that interest them. Dr. Seuss historian, Richard H. Minear, reproduced two hundred of Geisel’s cartoons which he divided into seven sections. Sections are divided by year—1941 through 1943—and by people, places, issues, and battles. In his introduction, Minear mentions that the entire collection of Geisel’s work has been digitalized for this website. Text and background illustrations decorate the site in a style familiar to those who know Dr. Seuss. I assume this is to prepare visitors for the humor and joy that so many fans remember and love.

As part of the three sections making up 1941-1943, Minear separates each year into subcategories labeled for the twelve months of the year. One thing that isn’t very clearly explained is the absence of time, in the form of months, as some years are only represented by a few months, where others are represented by twelve months. This is questionable when understanding that, the PM news-paper was a daily news-paper which ran from 1940 to 1948. By this calculation, it is easy to see that the two hundred illustrations posted here do not make up three years’ worth of work by Geisel. Minear does not clarify a reason for these gaps in time. As a viewer, I can only speculate the lapses in time correlates with the more unfavorable periods of the United States involvement in the war.

The remaining tabs, particularly the people, places and issues tabs, each provide an assortment of flexibility. Regardless of your level of knowledge on WWII, any of these tabs would lead the viewer to comics which entertain.

Within each, the viewer will find well recognized topics such as: Douglas MacArthur, Adolf Hitler, German, Japan, Normandie, and Propaganda. Also included are lesser known topics such as: Lend-Lease Act, Syria, Iceland (In WWII? How surprising!), Frank Knox, and William O’Dwyer.

My personal favorites were the People and Places tabs. As mentioned above, topics under the people and places tabs are filled with names and places unheard of to the amateur historian. For those interested in both WWII and Dr. Seuss, this is the place to start when visiting this site. Another really impressive aspect of this site, from more of an academic perspective, was the inclusion of metadata for all 200 illustrations included. Some of the more prominent information found here includes: Title of (illustration), Creator, Publisher, and Date of Publication. Of those I checked, each even includes a pre-created citation to be used in bibliographies.

Overall, the compilation of work by Theodor Seuss Geisel that Richard H. Minear presents in this site, provides the viewer an alternate perspective on a war much discussed though often taught biasedly.

Review of Bdote Memory Map

The Bdote Memory Map was created through a long term partnership between the Minnesota Humanities Center and Allies; media/art.  They thank their collaborators: First Person Productions of Migizi Communications, Andres Parra of VenUS Directions, Jewell Arcoren of First Nations Composers Initiative, Pat Nunnally of the River Life Program of the University of Minnesota, Marty Case of Allies Research and Writing and the Indian Treaty Signers Project, and Web design and development by This Clicks Interactive, St. Paul, MN. They also thank those who contribute words however the list is always changing and may not be correct.

Bdote Memory Map provides the Dakota’s people relationship and point of view to Minnesota. The project provides a decolonized approach to rethink historical sites, using multimedia platforms, documents of elder gatherings, interviews and oral histories, reflections for visitors and archives related to the Dakota presence.

The site opens up to the home page with a short description of what the site consists of and explains why the tabs are in the format of the different traveling directions. The background and colors used for the main page are very complementary to each other. The background is the same map that is used for the Memory Map however it is a more muted sand color. This color works with the contrast of the green that the tabs are. The tabs that are available to navigate are: We Are Home, Dakota Greeting, Mnisota: A Dakota Place, and Memory, which is the core of the site.

Next, the We Are Home tab directs the visitor to a video that is about one minute long. The video begins with a person saying, “De makoce kinde de untanhanpi” and large white birds flying. Next it transitions to a map with Fort Snelling and then an aerial view map of the same land. Then a layer is added on to the map with labels that are related to the Dakota people. It goes into two different speakers talking on the topic of their land being taken away from them. Below the video is a short caption about the Dakota people being from the land and also having a history with the land, like the site of their genocide.

The Dakota Greeting tab is a video of Chris Mato Nunpa, Ph.D. Dakota, Wahpetunwan saying the Dakota greeting in the original language and then translating what it means in English. There is a caption below the video however I am not completely sure what all of the information is.

Then the Mnisota: A Dakota Place tab that gives background information about the history of the land. There are also videos included to pronounce Mnisota, books and research that are related to Bdote area, the history of the Dakota people and projects. The videos are of decent to great quality. There are also links to voice recording on different topics.

Finally, the Memory Map tab takes us to a map of different locations important to the Dakota people. There are no different sites. When one clicks each site there is a description and background of the sites and videos proved. If one is interested in seeing more information, there is a read more link provided which goes to another page specially dedicated to the site and then there is also a link to click to see the site on Google Maps. There are two links provided on the main map: What is Bdote and About This Site. It is very important to understand the read to have a better grasp and knowledge of who created the project and what it is about.

Beyond the compass and map, there are links at the bottom of the site, which includes other tabs: Mnisota, Memory Map, Glossary, Learn More and For Teachers. These links provide more resources about area, glossary of Dakota words translated, and downloadable books, teaching guides to other resources specifically for teachers.

I would suggest moving the About This Site and What is Bdote? tabs in the Memory Map to the main page as well because it is confusing on what exactly the site is. This can be really helpful to future visitors, especially those who may be interested in conducting research.

Overall, the site is very well done in a nuanced view. There are not many projects that offer a decolonized point of view to history and the thanks of contributors. The site does not require any manipulation on the computer, like zooming in and out. The project provides many links is a visitor wants more information. The site provides a project for an empty space that is currently missing in academia and the voices of those who are oppressed.

Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory – A Digital Review

Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory. Directed by Anne Sarah Rubin (Professor of History, UMBC). Received production assistance from the American Council of Learned Societies’ Digital Innovation Grant Program, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the Dresher Center for the Humanities. Reviewed on April 18, 2019.

As the title suggests, this site maps out General Sherman’s infamous march across Georgia near the end of the American Civil War. Starting off, the homepage is a single image of the title and map. Title aside, the homepage has very little to offer in hooking the audience. The map section features five different types of perspectives: Sherman, civilians, tourism, soldiers, and fictional (which consists of historical songs). Each type has a different map aesthetic but all feature pins that point to interesting events. Clicking on a pin opens a brief description of events that occurred at that location, usually accompanied by an image. Some of these pins only have an audio clip, although it takes a few seconds to open, and there is no way to pause or move the clip forward or backwards. Unfortunately, the map is a work in progress. Many of these pins are blank, especially the “tourism”, “soldiers”, and “fictional” maps. I believe that more images and more primary sources could benefit this site, as only a small number of images are displayed. There should also be some indication as to whether the pin is a text entry, video or an audio file. The site has a small bug in which clicking and exiting out of the Covington pin on the “civilians” map causes it to freeze. On a smaller note, each popup could have an exit button to make it easier to close, as some people may click the back button on their web browser which takes them back to the homepage.

Aside from the map, the site has a blog that gives first-hand accounts of Sherman’s march. These include memoirs of Sherman and diaries of soldiers and civilians. While this is a nice addition, I wish there was more background context to these posts. It would also be nice to have the primary source attached to each blog post.

The site is said to be completed by November 15, although no year is given. It is unclear as to when this site was last updated, but it seems recently because of the copyright. This site is aimed towards a large public audience, as the author points out that they do not wish to fill the viewers with text-heavy documents. While more work needs to be done, like a more engaging homepage or more pin entries, the site is making progress, and has the potential to attract a wider audience.

Refusing to Forget

John Cadena

Refusing to Forget. Created by Sonia Hernandez, Trinidad Gonzales, John Moran Gonzalez, Benjamin Johnson, and Monica Munoz Martinez, Reviewed Feb. 2019.

Refusing to Forget is a digital platform documenting one of the most prolific, racist, and genocidal times in the history of America. This platform brings to light the deliberate behavior of the Texas Rangers along with other early settlers along the Texas Mexico border, and how they all but decimated the Mexican population. During a time when most of the land north of the border was occupied and controlled by white men in the area, South Texas, specifically along the border, was owned and controlled primarily by the Mexican population. In an attempt to gain control over this land, Refusing to Forget records how the Texas Rangers as well as the local population, began to brutally murder Mexican nationals in the area. Only after significant pleading to government officials and the mass exodus of others were members of this community able to regain a sense of constraint over the behaviors of which were occurring.      

In remembrance of this massacre, Refusing to Forget has collaborated with the Texas State Bullock Museum in Austin Texas to produce an exhibit displaying personal artifact belonging to Mexicans involved in this bloody part of America’s history. Here, visitors to the site are able to preview the exhibition as well as view a short film of the exhibit and events which they represent.     

As part of this effort, Refusing to Forget dedicates a part of this site to bring awareness to the efforts to create historical makers to remember these events. To date, several have been approved though only one in Cameron County has been erected. Of the areas of focus on this site, I particularly enjoyed coming across this one. As a native of Texas, I can say with a level of certainty that Texans pay more attention to their monuments than they do the occasional history presentation. For this reason, it brings me a renewed level of comfort to know this history is being remembered in this way.     

In reviewing this site, specifically, when reviewing the section titled “Conference,” I was reminded of how relevant this project is even today, as this section discussed a recent conference on this topic. Unfortunately for me, this conference had just past a few weeks prior. Without a doubt, this is an area of study I plan to follow and with luck will attend the next conference. 

For the more technological visitor, Refusing to Forget offers a few other options to utilize in learning about this critical part of history. Under the “Media” tab, viewers have the choice of listening to the podcast The Borderlands War 1915-1920 or watching the documentary Border Bandits. Both incredibly informative in telling this story of discriminative actions by the Texas Rangers towards Mexicans in south Texas. For those interested, Refusing to Forget also offers plenty of resources for visitors to read on this topic. In coming across this section, it surprised me because I didn’t expect there to be so many materials available. It is of great importance that in a time when racial discrimination is returning to this country, sites like this exist to remind Americans of where we have been?

Review of Remembering Rondo

Remembering Rondo Created by partners Rondo Avenue Inc. and Dr. Rebecca Wingo with students of an archive class at Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Reviewed February 21, 2019 – February 22, 2019. 

Dr. Rebecca Wingo taught an archives class that partnered with Rondo Avenue Inc. to create a map of the businesses in the historic Rondo neighborhood.  The students mined and scanned business ads from historic newspapers from this community, and selected ESRI StoryMaps Tour and Journal to organize the files and create the map. 

Remembering Rondo begins on the home page by clicking on the first link that appears when one searches. The page has “Places & Spaces”, “Life & Culture”, “Voices” and “Buy now!” Underneath these tabs are four other tabs — Map of Historic Rondo Businesses, Photo Archive, History Harvest and Team. Scrolling down further, there is a section that says, What’s New, Entertainment and News and Politics, presenting recently added to the site allowing one to scroll through the newest additions. There are filters that can be applied to manage what is seen by clicking all or three horizontal dots that provide a more detailed search. Next, it breaks down to another section that is formatted differently, with three tabs (Popular, Recent and Comments) showing articles life above.  Then there is the “Featured Posts” section and ”Recent Stories” section.  There is “Follow Us” and a subscribing section. Finally, there are “Most Viewed” and “New Restaurants in the City” sections.  Towards the bottom, there are “Most Viewed”, “Most Popular”, “News Tags”, and “Categories.”

The information on the site is well communicated and written.  The content that is written about is not difficult or too challenging to read. The intended audience, which is the local Rondo and St. Paul community seems to be very clear due to the creators and partnership of the project and the background of how the project was created. The images provided in the photo archive are of high quality but do not contain much metadata, however this may be due to the fact that it is from a private collection.  The history harvest (when community members are invited to share their letters, photographs, objects, and stories and participate in conversations about these items) Omeka website, which is embedded into the site, provides basic and sufficient metadata about the items brought in from the history harvest. The Omeka website is well-organized and provides different options to browse and search.

The actual site is set up very nicely and has a professional and modern aesthetic, and choices of the colors. The site is fairly easy to navigate, though it may be confusing for one that is not familiar with technology.  The home site provides a lot of information all at once and not a lot of context until one looks through the other tabs of information. I wonder if all of this contextual information could be put in one place to make it easier for the audience or guest viewers. The site is very compatible with tablets  and mobile-friendly. I tried on my iPhone and it did not require manipulation such as, zooming in or out. The site contains some quirks, such as the “Team” tab on the top of the site not working and what appears to be a photo and perhaps something connected with a Twitter page related to the digital project.

Since the team page is currently unavailable  for use, I am unable to make all the correct attributions except for the community partner, Rondo Avenue Inc., Dr. Rebecca Wingo and the archives class.

Overall, this digital project contributes to the field of digital history, providing examples of successful collaboration between a community and institution.  With minor fixes on the different links and perhaps taken from the suggestions previously made, this website can blossom even more so. The unique layout and design draws attention to the different articles and pieces of history presented in a different form, that most do not think of history as, when one thinks of history only in the traditional sense.

S. Shine Trabucco

St. Mary’s University 

San Antonio, Texas

Railroads and the Making of Modern America: A Digital Review

Railroads and the Making of Modern America. Directed and edited by William G. Thomas, III (Professor in Humanities at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln), Richard Healey (Professor of Geography at the University of Portsmouth U.K.), and Ian Cottingham (Software Engineer for the Computing Innovation Group at UNL). Received production assistance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reviewed February 22, 2019.

Railroads and the Making of Modern America is a digital project that looks at the social impacts of railroads in 19th-century America. It covers topics such as slavery, the Civil War, politics, migration, segregation, tourism and railroad work. The website implements visual aids including documents, maps, and statistical graphs.

As an example, when you look at Slavery and Southern Railroads under the topics tab, there are two columns: On the left are documents and on the right are visual aids. Under documents, you can take a closer look at contracts, annual reports of railroad companies, and letters. When you click on contracts, there are seven items – all of them are receipts for a slave purchase. One receipt was for the sale of slaves to the Mississippi Central Railroad Company on March 5, 1860. It briefly describes and shows a photo of the receipt. Underneath it is the metadata in the “about” section. It gives the source, the citation, the date, and other related topics. In the letters, they all have a description, but some do not have the photograph of the letter. However, these contain a transcript of the letter. As for the visual aids, many are maps to visualize information. Some require Adobe Flash Player 8 to view.

The next tab on the website is “views”, which are specific cases that focus on a research question or problem. Some of these “views” include passenger mobility in the 1850s, land sales in Nebraska, the growth of slavery and Southern railroad development, and women’s experience on the Great Plains in the 1850s. Just like the topic section, these “views” use multimedia when presenting the material.

This project openly shares their data and tools used in the making of this site. Under the data tab, you can download these resources for free. The authors encourage you to use these resources for your own research. The search bar for this project has several categories to limit your searches. These include types of document, the topic, scope, year, and publication.

Railroads and the Making of Modern America features four railroad-related projects from several graduate students in history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Finally, this site offers teaching materials such as seminars, interviews, worksheets, and links to other teaching sites for university, college, secondary and elementary school teachers. Just like the sources provided in the data tab, these resources are free and open-source.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council for Learned Societies, Economic and Social Research Council, and the UNL Office of Research, this digital project uses digital tools and primary evidence to analyze social changes and impacts that relate to the development of the railroad. There is plenty of data here already, but this is a work in progress. The project team is currently working on adding documents and visual materials to the website to further help teach American history. This project is most suitable to those who want to research this topic or teach it in an academic field.

Six degrees of an imagined social network of the 1600’s

Six Degrees of Francis Bacon, Created by Carnegie Mellon University with support from the National Endowment of the Humanities. Current website maintained by John Ladd, David Newbury and the Density Design Lab including Paolo Ciuccarelli, Tommaso Eli, Michelle Mauri and Michelle Invernizzi. Reviewed Feb. 8, 2019.

The Six Degrees of Francis Bacon visualizes an imagined historic social network of the sixteenth century surrounding Francis Bacon based on crowdsourced historical documents. This project can lead digital humanists and historians to askew questions based on the visualization of the data provided by these relationships. These relationships have been inferred statistically by datamining entries from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Six Degrees of Francis Bacon expanded this project, inviting new collaborators to join a January 2016 Networking Women Add-a-thon to focus on adding women who were not originally included in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 

The program website uses network analysis which provides a solid foundation  although there are still many questions to answer about how projects such as this can be as inclusive as possible. Most of the researchers and collaborators work for Carnegie Mellon and this project did not really seem to open this project to a larger collaborative effort which could have been a missed opportunity. While the website communicated the basics of the project, I needed to search the site’s blog for deeper answers about how the project was put together and organized. With its design, I felt that a more intuitive narrative would have been helpful in describing what the web of relationships could mean. I also do not believe that this website is as friendly to mobile devices, because it’s hard to see the layer of relationships on a small screen.  

The audience for this project is digital humanists and scholars looking for new perspectives on how to use primary and secondary sources to determine possible social networks of the past. This project does an excellent job of communicating to digital scholars who understand network analysis. However, it does a poor job of educating those without a background in this field how to use and understand this tool. As a digital media tool, this website provides a new way to visualize information and to consider new questions. This is not something that could be done in another format and so it does move the digital humanities forward as we come up with new ways to perfect the details of network analysis.  

While this project provides a good start for network analysis, the website and blog have not been updated since early 2018. This is a missed opportunity for continued engagement of how learning from this project can further advance our questions about who knew who centuries ago and how that might have affected events in the past. Overall, I rate this project a solid B, and I’d encourage the site to work to remain relevant and active in the digital age leading the cause of uncovering new questions for the digital humanities.

Railroads and the Making of Modern America: Documenting the Railroad industry on the backs of the slave trade.

Railroads and the Making of Modern America Created by William G. Thomas III, Richard Healey, Ian Cottingham, Leslie Working, Nathan B. Sanderson, Zach Bajaber, Karin Dalziel, Keith Nickum, Brian L. Pytlik Zillig, Laura Weakly, Trevor Munoz, Dan Becker, Catherine Biba, Luci Bolwer, Karin Callahan, Sarah Dieter, Paul Fajman, Marco Floreani, Amy Grant, Erin Johnson, John Kemp, Kurt E. Kinbacher, Miles Krumbach, Dan Larsen, Steve McGuire, Lundon Pinneo, Cris Rasmussen, Anastasia Smallcomb, Nic Swiercek, Michelle Tiedje, Rebecca Wingo, and Robert Voss, The University of Nebraska Lincoln, Reviewed Jan. 2019.

It is said it takes a team to build a mountain. In reviewing Railroads and the Making of Modern America, a digital history project maintained through the University of Nebraska Lincoln. On a macro-level, Rail Roads and the Making of Modern America can be defined as a digital exhibit/tool, covering the socioeconomic, political, and cultural impact of the rail road between Nebraska and America’s slave trade. In discussing this topic, Rail Roads does a great job at maintaining a neutral point of view in providing objective content on the matter. At a more defined micro-level, you really begin to see the immense depth of this project. When visiting the site, a simple scroll of your mouse pad begins your journey as samples of content interchange on an automated slideshow.

Complimenting the automated slideshow, the home page, provides for the viewer easy access tabs concentrating on individual areas of this site. Tabs labeled “Data”, “Search”, “Topic”, and “Home” make it utterly impossible to get lost while navigating. I began maneuvering through this site simply by taking a quick glance at what each area had to offer. On a quick glance, I came across things photos, map, letters, reports, and contracts, mostly in relation to a specific rail road company or slave owner. In addition to these items were also more general documents specific to a region or route taken. Not isolated to any one area, these documents could be found within each area of study. An area not given much attention, was the adaptations for those with special needs or abilities. While each area of study contained an assortment of available content, individuals with special needs or abilities will need to find alternate aid to assist in viewing this site as no options are available for the filtering of these needs.

Aside from this, the content of this project is well organized and displayed. In general, the material housed here could benefit high school and college students in search of primary sources on this topic. Outside of classrooms, this source also has the potential to be useful for genealogy, with its capability to search for railroad employees. 

In reflection, the digital media pieces which stood out to me more than others as having the most potential included, an interactive map which allows the viewer to scroll through to a given event and connects it to an interactive calendar, so the viewer can connect an event. Another fascinating section documented the purchase of slaves to include surnames and quantities of slaves. Another area I particularly enjoyed was an element which use the rail road information to show an example of Spatio-Temporal Correlation Technology. For this example, you are given the option to view the map used from the view of elevation, population, or rail roads. For each of these, this example gives the viewer the option to scroll from 1869 to 1887 and literally watch the rail road system grow across the state of Nebraska. Finally, in what would be everyone’s favorite, Rail Roads and the Making of America has added to this collect several podcasts which allow for additional insight into some of the more detailed pieces to this story. As a bird’s eye view it is fascinating to watch the impact of the railroad in real time.

In conclusion, the work compiled for Railroads And The Making of Modern America is but a mere example of the heights digital history can go. In an age filled with up and coming tech savvy students, the need to maintain a higher level of engagement become more of a necessity. Railroads And The Making of Modern America does that perfectly.   

Locating London’s Past: A Digital Review

Locating London’s Past. . Created by Matthew Davies (Centre for Metropolitan History, Institute of Historical Research), Tim Hitchcock (University of Hertfordshire), Robert Shoemaker (University of Sheffield), managed by Sharon Howard, developed by Jamie Maclaughlin (Humanities Research Institute), data prepared by Mary Merry (Institute of Historical Research), geo-references by David Bowsher, Peter Rauxloh and Sarah Jones (Museum of London Archaeology), technical work by Michael Pidd. . Reviewed February 8, 2019.

Locating London’s Past uses several maps of London to analyze geographic statistics. Using GIS, it illustrates 18th century records on John Rocque’s 1746 map of London. The University of Hertfordshire, the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and the University of Sheffield developed this project. The project also got help from the Museum of London Archaeology and the Humanities Research Institute in developing the map and technical layout of the website. Because this is a non-profit project, the website depends on advertisements to maintain and upgrade it.

On the front page, one can examine 1746 London more closely and compare it with a 1869-80 map, a present day Google map, and a satellite view of London. There is an “about the project” tab, along with a short historical background section and a contact list. Under the about page, you can read more about the geocoding tool that they used to map the data in addition to the limitations they faced. Multiple places having the same name, several locations unable to be mapped, and failure to match street levels are some examples of these limitations with the tech.
In addition, you can also look at certain data and read document text. The majority of the content will be found under the data tab.

The data section of the project may look a bit puzzling at first glance, but it is helpful in finding specific information. For example, you can look at all of the documented trials from 1674 to 1819 that occurred at the Old Bailey. Here, you can choose the victim’s gender, category of offence, verdict and punishment. Suppose you wanted to look at all of the trials in London that involved an animal theft in which the male defendant was found guilty and sentenced to public whipping. As it turns out, several of those exact cases have been recorded. All of the trial account’s texts can be read and many can be mapped. The project has more to offer than just trial cases. It also includes criminal records, a list of carpenter apprentices, fire insurance policies, a 1774 directory of citizens living in London, religious records, burial records for plague victims, population distribution, and more. The authors include bibliography of the records used. Comparing population density on the map effectively can be complicated, but luckily the website authors have provided several video walkthroughs on Vimeo. This can be problematic if Vimeo eventually shuts down.

The project’s design is simple, but that is not a bad thing. It could benefit from fleshing out the historical background more by giving details on civilian life in 17th century London, but otherwise the information presented is straightforward. The abundance of specific categories to choose from is one of the main strengths of the project. From what I experienced, there does not seem to be any bugs or glitches on the project. This website will appeal most to visitors or researchers who want to analyze the geographic and court records of 18th century London.

Reviewing Redlining Richmond

Redlining Richmond Created by the Digital Scholarship Lab in collaboration with the University of Richmond in Virginia. . Reviewed Jan 31 – Feb. 8, 2019.

The Digital Scholarship Lab develops digital humanities projects that contribute to research and teaching at the University of Richmond and beyond ( Redlining Richmond extends this mission by creating an interpretation of race and politics through maps in Richmond, Virginia.  The project draws from and focuses on the assessment surveys and maps produced by the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) and local agents allowing visitors to explore this information.

Redlining Richmond has five different tabs to look through (Home, Introduction, Neighborhoods, Factors, and About) that states a project summary, contextualization of the history from the time period the project focuses on, the different neighborhoods, and the arguable factors that contributed to the redlining of the neighborhoods. The map on the home page shows neighborhoods divided into four different grades based on “residential security.” “Neighborhood” grades are categorized by the colors: Green (A), Blue (B), Yellow (C) and Red (D). “Neighborhood,” “Factors,” and the maps on the home page contain interactive links.  These links provide detailed information about each neighborhood and the different factors that attributed to the redlining. The “Factors” tab looks at the different individual factors (Terrain, Favorable Influences, Detrimental Influences, the different inhabitants, Buildings Occupancy, Sales Demand, Rental, demand, New construction, Availability for mortgage funds, and Trends of desirability next 10-15 years, Clarifying Remarks and Information for this form was obtained from) that the HOLC collected data for their assessment for each area.

The information on the site is communicated clearly, however specific terms can be difficult to understand if one is not coming from a background of race studies or geographic information systems.  It is not exactly clear whom the target audience is, but I believe it could be for those who are familiar with the terms and ideas that are used and for people to look at as another case study for race, politics, and redlining. The home tab has an interactive map and links embedded in the text to provide and clarify what the project is interpreting. Under the neighborhood tabs there are two mini tabs, Map and List. Under maps the image of the map is not there. There are instructions to “Click on any marker to view report data for the neighborhood,” however there is nothing to click on. The collections of the area descriptions are very clear quality and help add even more nuance to what the project offers.  

The actual site is fairly easy to navigate with the different tabs and internal links that are provided.  When first clicking on the link to visit the page, it takes you to the home tab. The website is not accessible to those with disabilities, which there is no sound to read the text aloud nor color-blind-friendly colors used on the amp to distinguish the different grades of neighborhoods. The site seems to be compatible with tablets and mobile-friendly, however requires manipulation of the site such as zooming in.

Six people created this project.  Robert K. Nelson, director of the Digital Scholar Lab, wrote the introduction, programmed the site and led to the overall development of the project.  Kathleen Smith, a research intern at the Digital scholarship lap, helped conceptualize the project and the site and developed the project’s database. Scott Nesbit, association director of the Digital Scholarship Lab, contributed to GIS expertise. Nate Ayers, programmer and analyst the Digital Scholarship Lab, designed the site and all of its images. John V. Moeser, a senior fellow at the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, brought the HOLC assessment surveys and security maps of Richmond to the attention of the DSL and contributed to his expertise in the twentieth-century history of Richmond. Mike Saraham, a graduate student of Moeser, visited the National Archives to gather surveys and maps for Richmond.

Although the format of the site is not a unique design and seemingly basic, it offers a nuanced point of view on the topic of assessment surveys and residential security and how politics and race interact with these things in Richmond, Virginia.  I believe there could be a more unique and appealing design and also more interaction with the maps. Looking at different platforms such as Story Maps or interactive layers would benefit the project and add more to the interaction with the audience.  

S. Shine Trabucco

St. Mary’s University

San Antonio, Texas