BorderWork(s) Hosts a Meeting of the Mapping Minds

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Humanities Writ Large

by Jordana Dym and Mark Olson

Thanks to the joint efforts of Humanities Writ Large fellow Jordana Dym and BorderWork(s) Lab director Phil Stern, the BorderWork(s) Lab hosted visitors from New York this past fall. Five students and two faculty from Dym's home institution, Skidmore College, joined a dozen Duke students and faculty at the BorderWork(s) Lab October 25-26, 2013 to discuss the study and public presentation of history and cartography. The visit was made possible by a travel grant from Skidmore's Office of Academic Advising.

In the course of conversations and presentions on the first day, the Duke contingent heard about public history projects at Skidmore, where students mapped the "sacred spaces" of Saratoga Springs for a walking tour and various public talks. In the process, they learned about the challenges and triumphs of translating historical ideas and analysis to museum and library spaces and of preparing guided tours and videos. Prof. Stern took the floor to showcase the way digital tools, such as DIVE and Neatline, allow undergraduate students to study the impact of physical space on historical events from Tahiti to India. The day of intensive conferencing was broken up by a visit to the Defining Lines exhibit at the Nasher.

The Skidmore group, led by professors Tillman Nechtman and Eric Morser, spent a second day exploring Durham, thinking about how history happens in public. Highlights included a walking tour of downtown, a guided tour of historic Stagville, and a meeting with UNC-Greensboro professor of public history Benjamin Filene, who made a persuasive case that the guest students should consider graduate school in the Research Triangle area.

While at Duke, Dym has developed a project to create an exhibition called "Mapping a City: Saratoga Springs, 1819-1915-2015" for the Saratoga Springs History Museum. The exhibit will be assembled by students in Dym's Fall 2014 class Mapping the Americas and will open next spring. To prepare the ground, Dym has engaged two Skidmore students for a summer project involving research, design, and the preparation of a historical database.

Those plans were recently revised to include Duke junior Zach Mooring. Mooring first encountered Dym when she visited Mark Olson's Theories of Visual Studies class to speak about her research on historical cartography. His interest piqued, he initiated conversations with both Dym and Olson. The idea that emerged was that Mooring should join Dym's summer project.

It's a winning arrangement for both sides. Mooring's skills in 3D modeling, visualization, and web programming will complement the archival research expertise of Dym's Skidmore students. In return, Mooring will come back to Duke with the raw material for a Graduation with Distinction project that blends theory, history and contemporary media practice. Olson will be his adviser.

Referenced People

Professor of History, Director, John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative

Referenced Labs