• A Digital Archaeology of Life in Cleveland’s Depression-Era Slums

    Jared Bendis, Charlie Harper (see profile)
    Digital Humanists, Library & Information Science
    Digital humanities, Photographs--Archives, Geographic information systems
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science
    Conf. Loc.:
    Chicago, IL
    Conf. Date:
    November 9-11, 2018
    Photo archives, GIS
    Permanent URL:
    This presentation discusses a new digital initiative undertaken by the authors to study Depression-era housing in Cleveland through the Ernest J. Bohn Collection, which is held by Case Western’s Kelvin Smith Library Special Collections. Bohn, who directed the Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority from 1933–1968, was instrumental in establishing the city’s housing policy, and the collection that bears his name is a unique witness to life in the shanties of 1930s Cleveland. An assortment of manuscripts, maps, photographs, pamphlets, and videos, the Bohn Collection is a rich source of data, but each topically-relevant item must first be “excavated” from this archive, which has seen only rudimentary processing. This archaeological mentality of “excavating the collection” provides the methodological core of the initiative, and in particular, the authors are presently focused on excavating the visual and cartographic materials that highlight life in Cleveland’s 1930s slums. The authors follow a digital-archaeology workflow which attempts to return these excavated photographs and maps to their original provenience by spatializing, temporalizing, and contextualizing them, just as an archaeologist would with any other piece of material culture. Digitizing, enhancing, and colorizing the photographs; georeferencing the maps; closely analyzing photographic content and mapping their locations; and reconstructing the photographer’s point of view by taking modern photographs of these locations are all central to this process. The resulting provenienced dataset is then used by the authors to build an aesthetically-focused digital narrative of life in the slums of Depression-era Cleveland and to explore how reprovenienced archival materials and digital narratives may be effectively disseminated to interested audiences.
    Last Updated:
    5 years ago
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