My internship this summer with the Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities could not have been better. I had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Mickey Casad and other scholars and digital directors at Vanderbilt. They included Juliet Larkin-Gilmore, Dr. Angela Sutton, Dale Poulter, and Dr. Steven Wernke. I also had the chance to meet and collaborate with scholars from other institutions such as Dr. Chad Berry (Berea College), Dr. Reavis Mitchell (Fisk University), Dr. Lea Williams (Tennessee State University), Dr. Van West (Middle TN State University), Dr. Molly Taylor-Polesky (Middle TN State University), and Dr. Carole Bucy (Volunteer State College). Finally, I had many meeting with community stakeholders related to the Nashville Sites Digital Project including Nashville Public Library, Metro Archives, TN State Library and Archives, Slave Societies Digital Archive (Vanderbilt), Fog Haus, Metro Historical Commission, Belmont University, Middle TN State University, Convention and Visitors Corp., Smithsonian Institute, Humanities Tennessee, and more.
All of that to say, it has been a joyful internship. My experience has provided me with new digital skills (particularly after meeting with Dale Poulter last week about Fedora and Islandora), while also allowing me to flex my own (digital) muscles. Not only has Dr. Casad and the center supported my work with Nashville Sites, I will also have the chance to give back in two weeks–as I lead a workshop at the Vanderbilt DH Bootcamp. I will be teaching a session on Omeka to Vanderbilt faculty. In terms of Nashville Sites, I am happy to report that just yesterday, I passed off all metadata and tour narratives and maps for the first five tours. They are: Downtown School and Education, Food for Thought (restaurants either historic themselves or in historic buildings), Civic and Public Spaces, Architecture Highlights, and Nashville’s Seedy Side.
This summer I put much of the knowledge gained through George Mason University coursework into action. That is perhaps the best part. My coursework at GMU inspired my work with Nashville Sites, which in turn has allowed me to turn this class project into “a real thing,” and has also led to me learning many new things on my own and from others connected to the Vanderbilt Center for DH. I can’t thank Dr. Casad and Dr. Platt enough for their encouragement, guidance, and support.
A final word of thanks to George Mason for giving me the skills and experience to expand my professional portfolio. This past year, I led a Digital Humanities Initiative at Harpeth Hall, which resulted in my work with at least one teacher in every academic discipline (except math) to develop a digital project. My work in Digital Humanities also played a big role in my recent one-year appointment as Professor of Practice at Belmont University next year. Dr. Mimi Barnard’s vision and ingenuity made this appointment possible. I will be teaching an intro to Digital Humanities course as well as work with students on Nashville Sites (also two additional courses). In sum, Belmont is hosting me as I teach and work on this project. Two years ago, I could not have imagined that this certificate program would lead to a new position.
Below, I will share part of one of the completed tours as a sample. I will not send metadata as it is still being edited, and the GIS is under construction. I look forward to sharing the actual site when it is launched (estimated date August 2019). There should be approximately twenty tours. Enjoy.
1. The Hermitage Hotel/Capitol Grille/Oak Bar
J. Edwin Carpenter’s 1910 Hermitage Hotel is designed in the Beaux Arts Style, and even if you choose not to eat here, a visit inside is worth your time. Along with the ornate lobby and restaurant, the Art Deco men’s restroom located near the Oak Bar is famous for its design. Ladies, you can check out the restroom as well, just ask the hotel staff.
In the months before Tennessee’s decision to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment(August 18, 1920), both proponents and opponents of woman’s suffrage established headquarters at the Hermitage Hotel. They chose the location for its proximity to the capitol building, where women could not hold office but could lobby for their causes. After a fierce political battle, Tennessee became the thirty– sixth state to ratify the amendment, which met the 2/3rd state threshold needed, granting women the constitutional right to vote. Tennessee is still called the“Perfect 36” for its role in the ratification process.
The Capitol Grille, originally called the Grill Room, once served clear green turtle soup, Tennessee squab, celery, and salted almonds. While these dishes epitomized fine dining in the early twentieth century, they no longer exist regularly on the menu. Even though food tastes change over time, Capitol Grille has continued its long-standing tradition of using locally sourced ingredients when possible. The hotel owns Double H Farms that raises free range cattle and uses seasonal vegetables grown at historic Glen Leven Farm. If you don’t want a full meal, unwind in the Oak Bar, originally an exclusive men’s club. Today all can enjoy thisspace, which has served drinks and dinner for over a century.
Move southeast on Sixth Ave. toward Church St, and turn LEFT onto Church St. Then, turn LEFT onto Fifth Ave N to reach 227 Fifth Ave. North. Woolworth on 5th is about halfway up the block. Along the way, you will pass buildings with historical, architectural, and artistic significance. On Sixth Ave. North, take note of the Herakut mural of the dog, created through the Nashville Walls Project. Church Street is full of important sites including the Nashville Public Library, 505 Nashville, and the Downtown Presbyterian Church, which you pass on your right as you walk toward Fifth Avenue.
Oral History interview with Abby Crawford, then 101 years old. In the 2 minute clip, she describes the corrupt practices the anti-suffragists used to lobby for their cause. She mentions the opponents wearing red roses(proponents wore yellow)
2. Woolworth on 5th
In February 1960, a group of black students from Fisk University, Tennessee A&I(now Tennessee State University), and American Baptist College boldly sat down atthe lunch counters of Woolworth’s, Kress, and McClellan—all department stores. This is how Nashville’s sit-in movement began.Implementing methods ofnon-violent protest, young Civil Rights leaders such asJohn Lewis, James Lawson, and Diane Nash began a historic journey to end racial segregation. In the face of violence, intimidation, and arrest—the determined spirit and perseveranceof these and other students led Mayor Ben West to support desegregation. He did so, and the Nashville business communityfollowed by integrating lunch counters, stores, and restaurants. By the summer of 1960, Nashville had desegregatedall public facilities—the first southern city to do so.
After a major renovation, the Woolworth building reopened as a restaurant in early 2018. The venue hosts a“welcome table for all,” showcasing the Civil Rights movement in Nashville through historic photographs and visibly patched floors where the segregated lunch counters were removed. Visitors can enjoy live jazz, R&B, early rock, and more while dining.
Woolworth’s reflects the power of food to connect the past to the present and to provide a window into the complicated nature of southern culture and identity. You can likely think of popular foods associated with the American southeast: barbecue, fried chicken, or biscuits. These dishes represent points of contact between Native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans. These popular dishes reveal stories about women and men, many enslaved, who cooked for others and adapted foods during times of plenty and times of need. As you explore Woolworth on 5th, consider how its“welcome table for all” unites not only those who challenged Jim Crow with the present, but also celebrates the different races, classes, and cultures who made the cuisine we know and love today.
Turn LEFT outside of Woolworth on 5th; after walking about thirty yards, turn RIGHT at the Fifth Ave. North crosswalk to reach The Arcade located across the street. When you leave Woolworth’s you will see a historical marker describing the sit-ins.
Audio about Civil Rights Movement sit-ins in Nashville, TN
Oral History Interview with Edward F. Jones, 2006 November 3, excerpt 17, is a three minute clip of Jones describing the sit-in movement in broad terms. He mentions student activism, and the negotiations between business owners and student activist leaders.
Citation per NPL: Edward F. Jones, Series 1, The Turner Interviews, Nashville Business Leaders Oral History Project, Special Collections Division, Nashville Public Library.
3. The Arcade(and Peanut Shop)
If you seek a variety of options and a quick meal, drink, or snack—Nashville’s Arcade, located across the street from Woolworth on 5th, is the place for you. For decades, Nashvillians saw Fifth Avenue as the most popular shopping area in the city. At its peak in the early twentieth century, department stores lined the street, andthe Arcade was the center of it all.
Running though the middle of the block between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, this space was originally a rose garden called Overton Alley.In 1903, Daniel C. Buntin funded the construction of a two-story indoor shopping venue designed by the architectural firm Thompson, Gibel and Asmus. Modeled after the famous Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele in Milan(Italy), the Arcade features a glass-gabled roof, reinforced with steel beams made in East Nashville. When the city celebrated the Arcade’s opening, approximately 40,000 people gathered for shopping, music, and mingling. Shop owners and businesses in Nashville’s Arcade have changed over time, and the second floor mezzanine currently boasts art galleries that participate in the free Downtown Nashville First Saturday Art Crawl.
The street level promenade offers over twenty food stops with pizza, deli sandwiches, tacos, Chinese food, coffee, pastries, and more. The plethora of affordable options allows customers to find the perfect meal while taking in the architecture of this hidden gem. The oldest store in the building, The Peanut Shop, opened in 1927. Owned by Planters Peanuts until 1960, the store has run independently for over fifty years. Much of the decoration here is original, so make sure you look around if you stop in for a treat.
After walking STRAIGHT through the Arcade, you arrive on Fourth Ave. North and see the Bobby Hotel directly across the street. Turn RIGHT and you will see a crosswalk which you will take to get to the other side of the street. The small road in front of you that separates the Bobby Hotel from the Southern Turf building is called Metro Alley. The Southern Turf building, the historic location of your next stop, is on your RIGHT. Take the alley to Skull’s Rainbow Room restaurant and bar, located in the back of the Southern Turf building.
Over the past month, I have stretched my DH skills in many areas. I have learned from and collaborated with scholars and continued to lead and manage a digital project moving from the conceptual phase to the development phase. Along the way I have been challenged, encouraged, and inspired. Challenges range from logistics and subject/keyword indexing to defining a public and digital history philosophy. There are three projects that I would like to highlight in this blog post. I sincerely thank all three scholars for meeting and sharing their exciting work in DH with me.
Fort Negley Descendants Project
In particular, I enjoyed meeting Juliet Larkin-Gilmore, a Digital Humanities Fellow and PhD candidate in history at Vanderbilt University. She introduced me to the Fort Negley Descendants Project. Juliet and I are meeting next week to discuss how her work might intersect with Nashville Sites. Last year, Dr. Mickey Casad, the Associate Director of the Center for DH, formed a working group called Black Nashville, which is comprised of graduate students and scholars from all of Nashville’s major universities. One member of this intercollegiate group, Dr. Lea Williams, is also a consulting scholar on Nashville Sites. Dr. Williams is a Professor of History at Tennessee State University. He will be managing the tour content and design for a tour entitled, “Antebellum Black Life,” and it is my hope that Juliet and her team will work with Dr. Williams to build this tour.
Here is an excerpt of the project:
The Fort Negley Descendants Project is an oral history digital archive aimed at preserving the voices and stories of the descendants of the African-American laborers and soldiers who built and defended Fort Negley. The Fort was built in 1862, using a combination of forced labor of enslaved Africans which the Union army in Nashville had rounded up from nearby plantations, and free blacks of Nashville and the surrounding areas, who offered their services in exchange for payment (much of which never materialized). . . . Once built, the fortification was defended by various regiments of the United States Colored Troops against the Confederate forces. Both builders and defenders died in record numbers at Fort Negley in the defense of our union. Recent ground-penetrating radar reports have indicated a high likelihood that their remains still lie on the grounds of Fort Negley Park.
After the war, those who survived settled the nearby historically black neighborhoods of Chestnut Hill, Wedgewood Houston, historic Edgefield, and Edgehill. At the turn of the century, several prominent families from these neighborhoods founded North Nashville and all of the prestigious black institutions residing there- the historically black colleges, businesses, and churches. In the 1950s, these same institutions trained and supported some of the sharpest minds of the Civil Rights movement. There is a long and unbroken connection between the builders and defenders of Fort Negley, and Nashville’s current African-American population.
A second scholar I met with through the Vanderbilt Center for DH was Dr. Steven Wernke. Dr. Wernke is working on an exciting geospatial and crowdsourcing project called GeoPACHA project. An Associate Professor and Director of the Spatial Analysis Research Laboratory in the Department of Anthropology, Dr. Wernke also works on a team that is part of Vanderbilt’s Initiative for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Research. Dr. Parker VanValkenburgh, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brown University, is the other project manager for GeoPACHA. This project utilizes prgrams such as Spatial Lite, Arc Collector, and Q-Field (Android only). Below find selected excerpts about the project:
GeoPACHA (Geospatial Platform for Andean Culture, History and Archaeology) is a browser-based, edited geospatial platform for discovering and mapping archaeological sites in the Andean region of South America. It is designed to facilitate the identification of archaeological sites through “virtual survey” of satellite and aerial imagery and consists of a simple browser-based interface that enables users to visually scan imagery and plot the locations of archaeological sites to a central GIS database using point themes. GeoPACHA also enables the registry of attribute data with site locations via form-based data entry. A grid-based system tracks coverage and sites are recorded.
As is the case for any form of crowdsourced data, quality control is one of our paramount concerns. GeoPACHA’s tiered editorial model is designed to facilitate control of site identifications and attribute data to create high quality, curated datasets. Initial site locations and attributes entered by registered contributors are saved to a queue. Regional editors then conduct initial review of site identifications and attributes. General editors conduct a final review before committing site location and attribute data to the canonical database.
Dr. Wernke and I plan to meet in late August to see how his Intro to GIS class might contribute and participate in the Nashville Sites Project.
The third scholar I met was Dr. Chad Berry, Academic Vice President and Dean of the Faculty at Berea College. He is in the process of reviving a digital project, called Mappalacia, that he began as a Professor of History before moving into administration. The digital project was born out of an interdisciplinary project involving the Art, Music, and English Departments, which ran from 1948 through the 1980s. Before getting into the original project and digital project, one must first understand the distinctive mission and history of Berea College. From its website:
Founded in 1855 as the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, Berea College charges no tuition and admits only academically promising students, primarily from Appalachia, who have limited economic resources. Berea’s cost of educating a student for four years is nearly $100,000. A majority of Berea’s students are from the Appalachian region, and while all students are highly motivated their backgrounds are quite nontraditional compared to most college students. Berea College offers rigorous undergraduate academic programs leading to Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 28 fields. All students work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs.
Here is a description of the original “Man and the Humanities” project:
Art professor, Dr. Les Pross, taught an interdisciplinary class called “Man and the Humanities.” On the first day students were given a 8.5×11 inch sheet of paper. The assignment had one instruction: Draw or map your community. Student returned the following week with their drawing and an archive was born as Dr. Pross saved each drawing after the term and drawings/maps were dated, filed, and stored.
When Dr. Berry came upon this collection, he saw an opportunity. First he began by digitizing the maps–mostly from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Second his classes analyzed them and began creating mental maps and discussed points of intersection and connection (nodes, paths, segments), issues of memory, variances in visual representation, and historic periodization. There were many issues with which students grappled. For example, many of these views and features no longer exist because of coal industry, interstates, post-industrial development or rather decline. In revamping the Mappalacia digital project, Dr. Berry hopes to provide a window into Appalachian culture, as well as international and national culture from other home regions of students during these years.
Observations of Dr. Berry’s class included:
Gender: Male student drawings tend to be more aerial, women more grounded or landscapes
Race: Sometimes portrayed with railroad tracks, even sometimes labeled, e.g. “Negro” homes or otherwise portraying geographical segregation
Class: Also represented on many maps representing higher ground for upper class, lower ground for working class
Other themes, community, industry, lots of railroads, mines
I hope to meet with Dr. Berry again to see how I might contribute to this project moving forward as he also determines the best course forward for taking this project to the “next level.”
All in all, these meetings and exposure to scholarly DH projects allowed me to see many other possibilities for the wide-range of subjects, scope, and meaning for the Digital Humanities for students, for potential users, and for the larger, common good.
Bill Rankin, After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century, University of Chicago Press, 2017.