As I prepared to start my Public Digital Humanities capstone project, I began to reflect on the work I had done throughout the certificate and saw an opportunity to bring my work full circle. When I started the certificate, I learned technical skills not taught in my history coursework and began to see how they could improve my investigation of historical questions and imagery of the trends I saw in the documents. Through a Digital Studio Summer Fellowship, I learned best practices for digitizing records and how to map using GIS software. I took these skills and began mapping data on New Deal sites in Iowa and overlayed census data. While I had never imagined, I would be mapping and georeferencing points when I started my Ph.D. program in history. These skills allowed me to approach my work in a new way and gain a deeper understanding of space and the trends in my data. By the end of the summer, I had several maps which overlayed census data, community details, and New Deal project information. These maps marked over four hundred project sites of the National Youth Administration and over ninety Civilian Conservation Corps camps in Iowa. While these maps assisted my understanding of how the programs I study existed on the ground, they were overly detailed and just looked like tons of points on a state map. These maps showed the scale of the program but were too busy to communicate the actual work done by the programs. After culling helpful information for my thesis and further archival research from these maps, such as the distribution of programs across urban and rural spaces or variations in project type, I left these maps alone for some time.
During the capstone, I am returning to these data-rich maps and taking on perhaps the more challenging aspect of the certificate: making digital work exciting and accessible to the public. Working with studio staff, I am peeling back the layers of data I mapped as I learned the technical skills to refine these maps into digestible chunks. By cleaning up the maps and allowing users to control the amount of data they see, I am making a resource for presentations and sharing for the public to interact within museum spaces and online. My goal is to have a base Storymap that I can use to tell the general history of the New Deal projects I study in Iowa, which is adjustable to focus on specific communities while also showing the larger scale of the programs.