Sean Fraga: Digital Visualizations of Pacific Northwest Maritime Trade Networks during American Settlement, 1851–61

Hello everyone! I’m Sean Fraga. I hold a Ph.D. in history from Princeton University and am currently a lecturer in the Princeton Writing Program. I study links between mobility, technology, the environment, and social change. My current research explores the role of steam power in American territorial expansion, especially in the Pacific Northwest. 

At this year’s Six Shooter session, I’ll be discussing my digital history project, They Came on Waves of Ink: Pacific Northwest Maritime Trade at the Dawn of American Settlement, 1851–61. This project created maps and data visualizations from archival U.S. Customs records to show commercial links between Puget Sound’s first American settlers and the Pacific World. 

Waves of Ink tells the stories hidden in a beaten-up, handwritten ledger. In 1851, the United States created the Puget Sound Customs District as part of the nation’s territorial expansion to the Pacific Coast. During the district’s first decade, U.S. Customs officials used this ledger to record a wealth of information about each vessel arriving and departing Puget Sound: its name, nationality, tonnage, type, place built, registration, voyage dates, inbound and outbound ports, captain’s name, cargo carried, and details about the crew and passengers. 

My research team and I transcribed roughly 4,500 entries across 150 pages. A copy of the preliminary transcription is available on GitHub. This project was supported by Princeton’s Center for Digital Humanities, which hosted me as a postgraduate research associate during spring semester 2019. I am now preparing the dataset and related articles for publication.

This project helps reveal the importance of maritime trade to American colonization of the Pacific Northwest. At the WHA, I’ll discuss the transcription process, readying the dataset for analysis, and ways of exploring the data with Excel, QGIS, and Palladio. 

Cynthia C. Prescott: Pioneer Monuments in the American West

Hi, my name is Cynthia Prescott, and I am an associate professor of history at the University of North Dakota. My website, Pioneer Monuments in the American West, began as an inexpensive way to display color photographs of the nearly 200 public statues and sculptural reliefs I examine in my new book.  But building that website had a profound impact on my research project. Going digital enabled me to better manage my growing database of monuments. A tool developed for that website enabled me to map the erection of those monuments over both time and space. That in turn led me to ask new research questions that enriched my analysis of those monuments on the website and in the book.

As public attention turned toward increasingly controversial monuments beginning in 2015, I reimagined the scope and purpose of my website. While it remains a repository for images and content that didn’t fit into my 400-page monograph, I now envision it primarily as a tool for public engagement. Through my website and a variety of other platforms, I seek to inform ongoing debates about controversial monuments, and to spark conversations about similar monuments that have thus far gone unchallenged. I gave a series of public presentations, several of which can now be streamed through my website. I collaborated with K-12 teachers to develop model lesson plans that are now freely available on that site. And I am partnering with Clio—a website and mobile app that guides the public to thousands of historic sites—to reach more readers and to build actual and virtual tours of pioneer monuments throughout the United States.

2017 WHA Six-Shooters Session

The 2017 Six-Shooters digital history lightning round session, sponsored by the WHA Technology Committee, featured nine presenters sharing their research, teaching, and public projects at the WHA conference in San Diego, CA (photos by Doug Seefeldt, session chair):

  • Adam Arenson, Manhattan College
  • Jared Eberle, Oklahoma State University
  • Jason Heppler, University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • Jessica Kim, California State University, Northridge
  • Chris Repka, St. Mary’s University
  • Douglas Seefeldt, Ball State University
  • Jay Taylor, Simon Fraser University
  • Bryan Winston, St. Louis University
  • Linnea Zeiner, San Diego State University

Lineup for 2017 Six-Shooters Session

Here is an alphabetical list of the presenters that we have confirmed for the Technology Committee-sponsored session, “Six-Shooters: A Digital Frontiers Lightning Round”:

  • Adam Arenson, Manhattan College
  • Jared Eberle, Oklahoma State University
  • Jason Heppler, University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • Jessica Kim, California State University, Northridge
  • Chris Repka, St. Mary’s University
  • Douglas Seefeldt, Ball State University
  • Jay Taylor, Simon Fraser University
  • Bryan Winston, St. Louis University
  • Linnea Zeiner, San Diego State University

The session will be chaired by Douglas Seefeldt, Ball State University, and is scheduled for Thursday, November 2nd from 1:30-3:00 PM in the Monte Carlo room of the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, San Diego, California. Each presenter has six minutes and six slides (“Six-Shooters,” get it?) for their presentation. All presenters will entertain questions from the audience at the conclusion of all of the presentations. We encourage what may seem like “basic” questions as well as “shop talk” from those in attendance.

Please check this website in the days leading up to the conference for posts by each presenter introducing themselves and providing brief descriptions of the work they plan to present.

2016 WHA Six-Shooters Session

The 2016 Six-Shooters digital history lightning round session, sponsored by the WHA Technology Committee, featured seven presenters sharing their research, teaching, and public projects at the WHA conference in St. Paul, MN (photos by Doug Seefeldt, session chair):

  • Sarah Clayton, University of Oklahoma Libraries
  • Julie Davis, University of Minnesota
  • Mikal Eckstrom, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
  • Jeff Malcomson, Montana Historical Society
  • Rob Voss, Northwest Missouri State University
  • Chris Wells, Macalester College
  • Lindsey Passenger Wieck, University of Notre Dame

Lineup for WHA 2016 Six-Shooters Session

Here is a list of the presenters that we have confirmed for the Technology Committee sponsored session, “Six-Shooters: A Digital Frontiers Lightning Round”:

  • Sarah Clayton, University of Oklahoma Libraries
  • Julie Davis, University of Minnesota
  • Mikal Eckstrom, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
  • Jeff Malcomson, Montana Historical Society
  • Rob Voss, Northwest Missouri State University
  • Chris Wells, Macalester College
  • Lindsey Passenger Wieck, University of Notre Dame

The session will be chaired by Douglas Seefeldt, Ball State University, and is scheduled for Sunday, October 23rd from 8:30-10:00 AM in Governors III of the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront, St. Paul, Minnesota. Please check this website in the days leading up to the conference for introductions by each presenter and brief descriptions of the work they plan to present.

A View into the 2015 Six-Shooters Digital History Session

The lineup for the 2015 Six-Shooters digital history lightning round session, sponsored by the WHA Technology Committee, featured six presenters sharing their research, teaching, and public projects (photos by Doug Seefeldt, session chair):

Lineup for WHA 2015 Six-Shooters Session

Here are the presenters that we have confirmed for the Technology Committee sponsored session Six-Shooters: A Digital Frontiers Lightning Round Session:

  • Cameron Blevins, Rutgers University
  • Leisl Carr-Childers, University of Northern Iowa
  • Jason Heppler, Stanford University
  • Robert Jordan, Colorado State University
  • Verónica Reyes-Escudero, University of Arizona
  • Douglas Seefeldt, Ball State University

The session will be chaired by Douglas Seefeldt, Ball State University and is scheduled for Friday, October 23 from 2:30-4:00 PM in Parlor C of the Hilton Portland & Executive Towers, Portland, Oregon. Please check this site in the days leading up to the conference for introductions by each presenter and brief descriptions of the work they plan to present.

Lineup for WHA 2014 Six-Shooters Session

This year’s Six-Shooters session is scheduled for Thursday, October 16, 2014 from 2:30-5:00 PM in Salon 1-2 in the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa, Newport Beach, CA. It offers a unique opportunity for WHA members interested in the ways digital technologies are being used in the classroom, in public history, and in research, to discover and discuss these new ideas in an “unconference” manner.

This session, sponsored by the WHA Technology Committee, chaired by Douglas Seefeldt, utilizes a lightning round format that limits each presentation to six minutes and six slides. The session will feature the following presenters and topics. Please join us for stimulating presentations, lively conversations, and valuable networking!

  • Jacob K. Friefeld,U. Nebraska-Lincoln, “The History Harvest Project” The History Harvest is a collaborative, community based digital history project and learning initiative that aims to democratize and open history. The project utilizes digital technologies to share the experiences and artifacts of people and local historical institutions. At each harvest, conducted by undergraduate students, community members are invited to share their letters, photographs, objects, and stories, and participate in a conversation about the significance and meaning of their materials. Each artifact is digitally captured and then shared in a web-based archive for general educational use and study. Overall, the History Harvest project aims to raise visibility and public conversation about history and its meaning, as well as provide a new foundation of publicly available material for historical study, K-12 instruction, and life-long learning. I will discuss the History Harvest as a concept, and explain its philosophical grounding. Then, I will briefly outline the harvest process and flexibility of the project, and conclude with a discussion of the History Harvest Archive and the future vision for the project. This short presentation is an invitation to join this growing project in increasing the availability of artifacts that help us to understand our shared history.
  • Erik Johnson, George Mason U., “Discover Historic Places Digital Project” The National Park Service, in collaboration with State Historic Preservation Officers, Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and other local governments, administers a remarkable historic preservation program called the National Register of Historic Places. With advancements in web publishing and social media platforms, there is an opportunity to publicize the country’s historic resources to a wider audience and, in doing so, boosting historic preservation and the communities that are served by the National Register. Discover Historic Places (DHP) is a digital project that aims to work with the public to achieve a better understanding of its history by publishing National Register documentation in a highly accessible format. DHP is built using Omeka and uses the city of Philadelphia as a model for the project. The website organizes around historic themes within the city with the hope that thematic categories, along with map visualization, improve the accessibility of National Register resources for all users.
  • Robert Jordan, Colorado State U., “The Lory Student Center Project”In the midst of year-long renovations of Colorado State University’s (CSU) Lory Student Center (LSC) from the fall of 2013-2014, the history department, the Public Lands History Center (PLHC), university administrators, archivists and librarians from the Fort Collins and CSU archives, and undergraduate and graduate students worked collaboratively to produce digital, historical content to be showcased as part of the grand opening of the new student center. This digital content created by the university’s own students provides a link for past, present, and future Rams to their university, creating a sense of pride in the accomplishments of previous generations. The content is composed of twelve physical markers linked to digital, web-based “brand stories.” Working together, students in one undergraduate and one graduate history course (HIST580A1 and HIST480A5) produced narrative content for each of the twelve brand markers, as well as visual digital components for use by the LSC on a website or mobile application. Over the course of a single semester, students utilized a wide range of primary and secondary source materials and digital tools to create a dynamic, digital, public history project, learning new skills and gaining invaluable practical experience.
  • Paula Petrik, George Mason U., “Is 3-D Reconstruction Worth It?” In other words, what can we learn as historians from the laborious task of recreating a historical landscape in three dimensions, given that 3-D digital work is labor-intensive and time-consuming? Using Helena, Montana’s Wood Street neighborhood as a case study, this very short presentation illustrates what spatial analysis can contribute to historical analysis. Recreating the neighborhood adds an extra dimension to the history of “capitalists with rooms.” Not only did the Wood Street “soiled doves” create a micro-economy in their area but they also controlled its space both through the buildings’ design and location.
  • Jana Remy, Chapman U., “Digital Humanities at Chapman University” Jana will speak about two new Digital Humanities courses offered to graduate students at Chapman University, “An Introduction to DH” and “Humanities Computing.” In addition, she will share insights about serving in an “alt-ac” administrative position on her campus (as the Associate Director of Digital Scholarship), and her role in DH-related research initiatives.
  • Rebecca S. Wingo, U. Nebraska-Lincoln, “Can I Get a Witness?: Network Analysis of Homesteaders in Nebraska” In 2014, Fold3.com, a subsidiary of Ancestry.com, finished digitizing over 75,000 records of successful homestead claims for the state of Nebraska. In 2009, Richard Edwards called for a reassessment of homesteading in “Changing Perceptions of Homesteading as a Policy of Public Domain Disposal,” arguing that scholars need to approach homesteading through data analysis rather than anecdotal evidence (however compelling it tends to be). Using the newly digitized records, I sampled ten townships over two counties to thoroughly examine and document every homestead claimant, creating the most complete data set of homesteaders to date. I then used Gephi to map the social connections of homesteaders based on the witnesses they listed in their Proof of Posting. Network analysis of homesteaders indicates the prevalence of fraud (spoiler alert: it’s not as much as previous scholars have led us to believe) and traces community formation. Geolocation of the homesteaders further reveals patterns in witnessing that demonstrate the function of neighbors and neighborhoods in the rural west. Ultimately, this project merges qualitative methodologies with close-readings of the documents to produce ground-breaking research on homesteading in Nebraska.

Do you use digital tools in your research, teaching, or public history profession? If so, and you are planning to attend the 2014 Western History Association conference and are willing to share your thoughts and experiences at this session, please contact Doug Seefeldt: wdseefeldt[AT]bsu[DOT]edu and we’ll try to add you to the slate!

Call for “Six-Shooter” Lightning Round Presentations: Western History Association 54th Annual Conference, October 15-18, 2014

Greetings! The Western History Association’s Technology Committee members are seeking proposals for a roster of presentations for their “Six-Shooters” lightning round session to be held at the WHA’s 54rd Annual Conference in Newport Beach, CA on Thursday October 16, 2014 from 2:30-4:00 PM. Each of the 8 or so presenters will have 6 minutes and no more than 6 PowerPoint slides to share topics with a significant digital history component related to research, teaching, or public history initiatives. Before the conference, each confirmed participant will post a brief paragraph to the WHA Digital Frontiers blog outlining what they plan to present. Check this space for updates and feel free to contact Doug Seefeldt via email at wdseefeldt [AT] bsu [DOT] edu if you would like to like to be considered to participate in this alternative-format session.