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May 2, 2017

Reflections on Earle Draper and the Making of Company Towns

May 2, 2017 | By | No Comments

In working on the website and uploading materials, it struck me that the houses primarily material authored by Earle Draper. Most of that was not by design but primarily due to the fact that most of the material easily accessible (both at the National Archives in Atlanta and the Rare Manuscripts Library at Cornell) is authored by Draper.  That having been said, it is striking the investment that Draper felt to the project. Draper embodied a particular kind of imagination. In reading essays by him, one is struck by this imagination. Norris was not just a planned town; it was experiment in peri-urban living. It also embodied the culmination of a process started by the TVA, a process that was, arguably, the raison d’etre of the TVA—electrification of rural homes. Electrification of the homes in Norris was an important aspect of the planning. It was seen as being distinctly ‘modern.’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, design became a means to modernize rural areas and usher development. Company towns were more than just housing for workers, through Norris, they became a conduit for a particular vision of the world. Bear in mind, this is a moment, around the world when ‘development’ becomes a rallying call. As I think about the summer, I am looking forward to examining more material authored by Draper on Norris, to better understand what modernity meant to men like Draper.

Working towards making a functional website also raised some technological issues. For instance, I thought I had worked out how to display pdfs as well as short reflective essays about the primary source pdfs on the website. When I actually began writing those essays, I realized that I had actually not worked out the issue. It made me realize that displaying a textbox and an iframe side-by-side is difficult! I was able to work out a solution eventually, that involved putting them both in one container that was able to recognize their differences and still let them be. In hindsight, it is probably the easiest and most straightforward solution but it was one I was avoiding because it would mean changing back-end code everywhere. Eventually, that’s what I had to do and it turned out well. Lessons learned: think about using CSS so as to avoid having to change lines in the html code of each page and second, create fully functional dummy pages!

The second big/bug issue I had was with Mapbox. My original plan was to georectify a site plan of Norris and use that on the home page, to create an interactive interface. However, whilst trying to do that, I realized that I did not have the right site-plan. After week of searching, I found the right version, right here at the MSU library! Having secured the right site plan, I set about trying to make my home page. However, mapbox was unable to handle the georectified image. So I was unable to create a tileset and get on with things. I am still working on resolving the issue, but for now, I am embedding a GoogleMap I created. It isn’t the ideal solution, but well… Lesson learned: find your sources before time!

Now, back to tinkering with the website! It launches soon!

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