I am so excited to announce the public launch of my project, Mapping the Upper Missouri: Visualizing Negotiation, Diplomacy, and Culture on the Northern Plains, 1801-1853. The story map and supplemental materials provide a geospatial history of the fur trade, intercultural exchange, and diplomacy in the upper Missouri River region (present-day Montana). It encompasses four historical themes: the global fur trade, the history of intertribal and colonial relations, the early history of capitalism in North America, and the evolving state of diplomacy from exchange to territoriality. Ultimately, two key arguments arise out of this project. First, that over the course of the first half of the nineteenth century the fur trade transitioned from sites of exchange into sites of administration and surveillance. Secondly, the upper Missouri Indigenous communities affected by these transitions strategically responded in ways that ensured their survival and persistence.
Mapping the Upper Missouri has four subsections for viewers to explore. The landing page presents a brief synopsis of the entire project and directs the audience to the next section, the “map”. The story map that follows begins by placing viewers in the geo-historic context of the upper Missouri and ends with a discussion of the adaptations and continuities of Indigenous spaces. Twelve pins on the map represent location-centered events, items, and people who played a part in conceptualizing the region. To illustrate these points, this project emphasizes sources of visual culture: maps, art, and print, which are immersive and encourage viewers to engage “atypical” historical sources (i.e. non-text documents). As a result, the story map renders a unique experience of history that can be both educational and pedagogical. The next section, “Interpretive Essay” offers my thoughts, argument, and analysis on the story map. The third subsection, “bibliography and resources” offer recommendations for further reading and exploration, including secondary sources, primary sources, and linked digital resources. Lastly, the “about the author” page provides more information about my background.
There are so many people who have been part of this project– from inspirational encouragement to technological help. First, I would like to thank Dr. Ethan Watrall (Dept. of Anthropology) and the Cultural Heritage Informatics initiative for providing the opportunity, space, and funding to build this project. I am deeply appreciative for Ethan’s guidance and insight which has greatly informed my understanding of geospatial analysis, digital mapping, and digital humanities more broadly. I am also indebted to the other fellows in CHI who helped me in various stages of this project, rapid development challenges, and who made this fellowship so much fun. Special thanks to Brian Geyer who always helped me fix the quirks and kinks in my project’s development.
I have been very fortunate to be part of an incredible Digital Humanities community at MSU. The digital work of these scholars continues to inspire me to take my work to new levels. My journey in Digital Humanities began with a graduate seminar taught by Dr. Steve Rachman (Dept. of English) which changed my outlook on historical research. Drs. Alice Lynn McMichael and Brandon Locke (MSU’s Lab for the Education and Advancement of Digital Research, LEADR) and Dr. Sharon Leon (Dept. of History) have been incredible mentors to me for the last three years as I served as a graduate assistant in LEADR. Because of their mentorship, I approach digital literacy as a fundamental component of historical research. My ambition for this project could not have been possible without their support and knowledge.
Lastly, my dissertation committee, Drs. Thomas Summerhill, Michael Stamm, Mindy Morgan, and Peter Beattie, have been incredible supporters of my work. Mapping the Upper Missouri developed out of the research in the first chapter of my dissertation, which has greatly benefited from their comments and feedback.
The Project’s Future
I think one of the most exciting aspects about this project is that there is so much more that could be done. As a tool for both students and educators, I hope that Mapping the Upper Missouri continues to expand and serve as an informational resource. In the coming months, I plan to consider additional ways of presenting the Story Map’s sources (both visual and print). One addition would be a catalog of visual resources with attached metadata. Additionally, I would like to construct other data visualizations (graphs, charts, data maps) of the textual resources, namely newspapers. Doing so would provide additional perspectives and “ways of viewing” the sources presented in the project.