Gianna May Sanchez: Creating a Public-Facing Website for Hispanic Legacies of Route 66

Hello! I am happy and honored to be included among a group of fantastic scholars all participating in the Digital Six Shooter panel at this year’s WHA! I am Gianna May Sanchez, a pre-candidate Ph.D. history student at the University of Michigan. My research and interests primarily focus on the history of healthcare and folk medicine in the 20th century U.S. West, specifically examining experiences of reproduction and medicine for women and Latinx communities in the region. My work also includes public history and digital humanities projects, which range from short term endeavors (as featured in my Six Shooter presentation) to long term contracted positions with organizations like the Smithsonian Latino Center. My presentation, “Rerouting the Mother Road: Creating a Public-Facing Website for Hispanic Legacies of Route 66” will focus on a 2017 digital project with the National Park Service and Latino Heritage Internship Program about the history of Route 66 in New Mexico.

The digital project, a website titled “Sharing Our History: The Hispanic Legacy of Route 66 in New Mexico” is forthcoming and currently under review by the NPS National Trails Intermountain Region. This website highlights the Hispanic narrative of Route 66 in New Mexico, an underrepresented story within the mythicization of the Mother Road. The site also promotes a space for community members to share their stories and learn about the specifically New Mexican Hispanic experience that defined life on and along Route 66.

My participation in this project began in 2017 as an intern with the Latino Heritage Internship Program. Over the course of the summer, I worked with the research team, Angélica Sánchez-Clark, Frank Norris, and Kaisa Barthuli, to synthesize a cohesive narrative and develop a public website. This process incorporated historical analysis and interpretation of primary and secondary records with considerations toward audience engagement, accessibility, multimedia formatting, and copyright. The resulting guiding methodology leveraged museum interpretation and public scholarship best practices within postcolonial historical frameworks. Parts of Route 66—and other travel corridors in New Mexico—pass through historical and contemporary indigenous lands. A portion of the road further followed El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, a passageway widely used for Spanish colonization, trade, and movement throughout the region. The overarching narrative of “Sharing Our Histories” contends with this past, while also illuminating the lived experience of residents through oral histories, written accounts, and images.

On a more tangible level, my presentation will address the design and development decisions that influenced the creation of this site. The site platform, StoryMaps, provided a unique space to combine visual imagery with scrolling, narrative-based text. This interactive experience, while linear, provides multiple approaches for site visitors to engage with the material, from descriptive text to audio sound bites of New Mexico residents discussing their experience growing up and working on Route 66. With this in mind, I hope to address the multifaceted aspects that went into the development of this project from initial research stages to synthesizing a cohesive narrative to design and accessibility choices in the digital platform. Looking forward to the panel, and I hope to see you all there!

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