GIS, Spatial Turns, and the Wide World of Mapping Tools

GIS, Spatial Turns, and the Wide World of Mapping Tools

People use GIS (geographic information systems) technology everyday. Thanks to smart phones, getting to your friend’s new apartment or finding that new restaurant is easier than ever. But GIS technology does more than tell us how-to-get-where. For any group utilizing mass transportation, GIS can be used “to optimize…daily fleet movements.” Governments use GIS to develop “disaster decision support systems” in case of an emergency. Some even use GIS to find gold deposits in the Yukon.

Capture 60 minutes GIS Gold
Click to see how GIS is used to find gold, and learn about the environmental ramifications


But how do historians use GIS?

To answer this question, it’s necessary to first discuss the “spatial turn” in history. In short, the spatial turn, like most “turns” in history, is a movement among academics to shift approaches. For spatial historians, the shift involves an increased focus on the historical implications of space, place, and landscape. Spatial historians analyze the ways in which historical actors identify, define, interpret, and engage with space. The spatial turn inherently brought about an increased use of maps, which is where GIS comes in.


The capabilities of GIS allow historians to pinpoint their analyses on digital maps to convey history in a non-textual way. By using GIS, spatial historians not only allow learners to engage with digital tools themselves, but they often provide new insights to various histories. For example, spatial historian Anne Kelly Knowles uses GIS technology to show how Nazis strategically placed concentration camps close to industrial centers to use prisoners as a labor soure.

Anne Kelly Knowles' Holocaust Map of Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia: The crosses represent concentration and labor camps, the blue hues represent centers of steel production, and red hues represent centers of machine-tool production.
Anne Kelly Knowles’ Holocaust Map of Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia: The crosses represent concentration and labor camps, the blue hues represent centers of steel production, and red hues represent centers of machine-tool production.

Jumping continents and traveling backward through time, Knowles introduces new insights on the American Civil War as well. Using GIS technology, Knowles is able to reveal what Robert E. Lee could see from his vantage points during the Battle of Gettysburg. Knowles’ findings reopen discussions on Lee’s decisions during the battle, sending waves through the historiography.

Anne Kelly Knowles' map of Gettysburg from the vantage point of Robert E. Lee: The tan areas reveal what Lee could see before and during the battle, which is much more than historians previously noted
Anne Kelly Knowles’ map of Gettysburg from the vantage point of Robert E. Lee: The tan areas reveal what Lee could see before and during the battle, which is much more than historians previously noted

Historians like Knowles use their historical understanding of space, coupled with modern GIS technology, to reinterpret history. In fact, GIS is so prominent in spatial history that some historians wonder if it may be the future of digital history as a whole.

It is true that GIS allows historians to create digital mediums for exploring historical spaces, but claiming that it is the foremost digital approach to history may be a bit of an overstep.


The reality is that not all historical mapping projects use GIS, and not all have to. GIS is useful in certain projects, such as those cited above, but GIS is also criticized for occasionally “promoting positivism, ignoring complexities, and disregarding uncertainties.” The exact nature of GIS projects, which require precise coordinates, runs the risk of over-exacting the often nuanced aspects of historical events. Assuming that precision inherently brings about certainty is incorrect. 

So do mapping projects have to use GIS? Can the spatial turn incorporate historical works that analyze space without latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates? Can space still be “an explicit part of historical analysis” without using exact locations?


For my own sake, I hope that not every spatial project uses GIS. The reality is that I do not know how to use GIS. Furthermore, I do not know whether my research surrounding sport stadia will yield specific GIS coordinates. Stadiums themselves are fixated, and as such would be easy to pinpoint. But what about urban dislocation as a result of the stadiums? Are coordinates relating to where individuals move after stadium construction as readily available? If not, my project will have to use mapping and imaging in a different way.

Richard White, discussing the Stanford Spatial History Project (SSHP), noted that “Religious spaces – like libraries, art galleries, sports arenas and graveyards – are more than locations or buildings. They represent a particular lived experience.” The question is how can I convey the particular lived experience brought about by sport arenas?

Many historians have discussed the geographical implications of sport, but seemingly none have utilized digital mapping to convey their spatial interpretations. Despite White’s inclusion of “sport arenas” in his argument and the abundance of stadiums and arenas–and controversies surrounding them–close to Stanford, none of SSHP’s projects deal with sport arenas.

The combination of a lack of digital and GIS know-how on my part, and a lack of readily available examples to learn from, make me feel as though I’ll have an uphill battle utilizing digital tools to engage with spatial history and sport stadia.

However, one possibility jumps out at me.

In my research, I have some planning documents about the positioning, design, and structure of the Orlando Arena. Likewise, I have numerous examples from newspaper sources that show how Orlandoans defined the arena as a space for elites, shielded by “lush gardens” and “fountains” from the “crime-riddled” Parramore neighborhood.

The original Orlando Arena: Note the strategic layout of gardens and fountains. These are referenced by local media and citizens as ways to
The original Orlando Arena: Note the strategic layout of gardens and fountains. These are referenced by local media and citizens as ways to “shield patrons from the neighborhood” of Parramore

Perhaps there is some way I can use photographs, maps, and discourse to convey my interpretation that the stadium is used as a fulcrum for identity construction and exclusion.


In his article, White claims that the SSHP could not be possible without collaboration. White says that “The scholars involved in the Spatial History Project can write books by themselves, but they cannot do a spatial history project on the scale they desire alone: we lack the knowledge, the craft, and ultimately the time.”

Sound familiar?

Last week I proposed the idea of collaborating on a project together as a class, or at least in larger groups. People in class looked at me like I had ten heads. This is fair, considering that we all want to do our own research and work toward completing our theses while pursuing our individual passions. In fact, I myself was adamant at the beginning of the semester that individual projects were best.

However, the more I read articles like those of Ayers and White, and listen to those in our department like French and Lester, the more I wonder: what do I hope to get out of this semester, and how might collaboration enable me to learn more?

Consider this concluding segment of today’s blog post a last-ditch plea to the class to consider collaborating on a project together — not one that any of us proposed individually during our flash-pitches, because it’s inherently unfair that four of us work for a semester to complete the thesis project of one. Rather, let’s come up with something feasible together. Why not a project that uses mapping, GIS, spatial theory, and digital tools to convey a history of UCF? All the archives are right on our campus, as are the experts and the storage capabilities (RICHES might like a project like that — Dr. Lester mentioned that they don’t yet have much on UCF).

My fear is that working individually, though helping each of us chip away at the goal of completing a thesis, will limit the overall quality of our projects and the amount of digital know-how we can gain from working together.

With that being said, I am okay to work alone — I’ll be able to turn out a decent digital project (I hope) and it will give me an opportunity to explore more of the spatial elements of my thesis. The same, I think, will be true for all of our projects.

However, if we broke into two or three groups, we could collaborate more (as Ayers, White, and others urge us to do) and come up with better projects.

Think about it.



What’s Out There

As you all know, I hope my project can convey urban displacement caused by sport arenas by using digital mapping technology.

In an effort to see what’s out there, I’ve perused the World Wide Web and found the following:

Hosted by UC Berkeley, the “Urban Displacement Project” displays gentrification and urban displacement in the San Francisco Bay Area. For my purposes, the project reveals how in-depth such a project can be (there is a quite a bit on how they got all their data) and so it both provides me with a road map and also makes me stop and think — Okay, is this idea feasible to do, in a semester, and on my own?

Capture Urban Displacement

Digital Harlem is a collaborative effort between four Australian historians who set out to map everyday life in Harlem, NYC between 1915 and 1930. Drawing mainly from governmental and newspaper archives, Digital Harlem is a lot like RICHES MI (stay with me here) in that it positions a map at the center, with a search tool to the side, and searches will yield pinpoints on the map that in turn yield historical information, which can be engaged with further if the user so chooses. Again, this shows the possibilities of what my project can do while emphasizing the collaborative effort that is necessary on a lot of these projects.

Capture Digital Harlem

Similar projects to Digital Harlem:

“PhilaPlace,” Historical Society of Pennsylvania,

Capture PhilaPlace

“MediaNola,” Tulane University,

Capture MediaNola

In closing, I’m hoping that all of us in class looking at mapping can get together and collaborate on one project or another. I’m beginning to feel that “united we stand…” and that perhaps a lot of our project ideas are a bit too big to take on by ourselves. Hopefully in class we can decide on one or two projects (even if one of them is not mine) and work together on it so that we’re creating quality works like the aforementioned.



Digital Tools for History – Blog Post 1

Garrett at FHQ has now become Garrett in Dr. French’s Digital Tools Course!

Same look, Same URL, Whole new focus (trademark pending on the slogan)

This week’s assignment: “Write a 500-750 word blog entry that conveys your critical perspective on Ayers work/career and the lessons it offers to those just starting out”

Right off the bat, it’s easy to see that Ed Ayers is a revolutionary guy. His bio on NEH’s site makes him sound almost mythical, like a modern-day academia version of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill combined, born in the mist of the mountains, descending on the Ivy League with his blue ox (his digital tools), prepared to lasso a twister (the digital revolution). And frankly, this glowing description might be underselling him.

Indeed, Ayers seems perpetually ahead of his time. His Valley of the Shadow project laid the groundwork for what digital history could look like. In 1993, when many were still unaware of how to even begin approaching the World Wide Web, Ayers was already testing its boundaries for academic purposes, aiming to disseminate historical knowledge and diversify historical approaches. Ayers met these aims, and then some. Valley of the Shadow not only depicts the similarities and differences between two opposing communities during the Civil War, serving to simultaneously provide an intimate microhistory and representative case study for understanding the North and South as a whole. It also serves as an enormous archive for scholars of all ages and skill levels to interact directly with primary sources. Ayers subsequent Valley work only increased this accessibility, serving to educate, inform, and inspire on multiple formats. Moving on from Valley, Ayers has directed or contributed to many other digital projects, all of which seem to carry on Valley‘s dual purpose to interpret and archive.

The lessons Ayers’ work offers to those starting out abound. Among these are many concepts commonly held to be cliche but are nonetheless extremely important: “push the limits,” “ask the big questions,” “think outside the box,” “don’t ask ‘why?’ Ask ‘why not?'”

Ayers’ sheer volume of production should stand out to all young scholars, many of whom complain about being bogged down in work. Next to Ayers, who serves as Director of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, teaches classes as a history professor, and, until recently, served as Richmond’s president, young scholars are hardly breaking a sweat.

What’s more, Ayers never settles and seemingly never waivers. Once his digital work becomes the norm, he presses on to new projects. Though many scholars claim to be disinterested in digitization, Ayers continues to see its importance.

The reality, sadly, is that Ayers seems to be more of a minority than a majority. No doubt he has helped countless students familiarize themselves with digital tools. He obviously has been instrumental in creating digital labs at two universities, and has influenced a few others to do the same. However, across the board there isn’t much being done to teach students how to utilize digital tools.

This lack of educational support, coupled with the historian’s tendency to “take a few things from the menu of possibilities and leave the rest untouched,” (Ayers, 1999) render many young historians bound to enter the cycle of change-at-a-snail’s-pace. At least at UCF we have a culture of embracing digitization. I’m not saying this to suck-up, but the reality is that we are luckier than most to have Dr. French (eFHQ), Dr. Lester (RICHES), Dr. Cassanello (podcast editor, FHQ), and a host of other professors who recognize the importance of digital history. Still, though, there isn’t much cross-disciplinary initiatives to pair students in our department with students in tech/web design/visual media departments to see what cool projects we could come up with. We, and students across the country, need our institutions to cut the red-tape and encourage, through accredited courses, the intra-instutional collaboration of young scholars across disciplines. After all, Ayers and his Valley of the Shadow would never have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for different departments at UVa coming together to build something that could showcase the full range of the university’s abilities.

Ayers makes many good points about the possibilities of digitization that are still unmet, but more needs to be said across the board about raising the level of digital education across the country. As long as we are not educated on how to maximize digital history’s potential, we won’t. Until then, we, like Ayers did in the 1970s and 80s, must teach ourselves how to utilize the abilities of computers. Again, we are indeed lucky to have the support we do have, but I think even our most supportive professors would agree that we, and students across the country, need even more if we are to create groundbreaking work. Then again, Ayers did teach himself a lot, and effectively networked across departments. Perhaps that aspect of Ayers, even more than his projects, should be what we try to emulate. Perhaps then, we’ll create our own Valley.

Week 10: OA Revisited

Hello again!

In an attempt to build on last week’s post a bit, I’d like to spend this post discussing some other takes on OA and digitization. I’ll mainly be copying and pasting from two articles I’ve come across in my research in hopes of sharing what I’m learning this semester. In the end, I think it will be clear that the issues surrounding academic publications, OA, digitization, state history journals v. national journals, STEM journals v. humanities journals, and the effects of monograph publishing on journal publishing are simply too much for one to take on in a summer semester. The reality is that reading about these issues places one in a mental back-and-forth (or perhaps more of a ‘tug-of-war’) between opinions on all of the above – one day you’re pro-OA, the other you’re more critical of how OA is fair financially to those involved in creating and editing content, etc…


In “Open Access Goals Revisited: How Green and Gold Access Are Meeting (or Not) Their Original Goals” by Sara L. Rizor and Robert P. Holley (Journal of Scholarly Publishing 45, no. 4, July 2014, pp. 321-335), two librarians offer their opinions on the state of OA. Please understand that a bit of background understanding is necessary to get some of what they’re talking about (I read this article a few times, then read other articles, then came back to it, and then finally understood it a bit), but it is a very good assessment of where things presently stand concerning OA. Also, the article groups STEM OA and humanities OA together most of the time, and that is a bit problematic – it’s much better for us in humanities to understand OA in our field because things are different (namely funding opportunities).

In regards to the history of OA:

“(Open access) journals, otherwise known as gold OA, gave scholars an alternative outlet for their work. The literature published in these journals would be made immediately accessible to users free of charge without anyone having to circumvent copyright restrictions or negotiate with publishers to grant the permission to self-archive. In this sense, gold OA took the subscription bull by the horns by tackling the issues with traditional publishers head-on. Competition, the BOAI (Budapest Open Access Initiative – basically the preeminent advocacy group for OA) asserted, would be a good thing in the scholarly publishing market. Critics, on the other hand, suggested that without the revenue from subscription fees, there was no way for gold OA journals to achieve long term sustainability…But the BOAI, recognizing this issue, maintained that alternative business models could offer substitutions for traditional revenue streams and, better yet, would end up costing less. Some of their suggestions for collecting fees to cover the cost of production (in 2002) included ‘foundations and governments that fund research, the universities and laboratories that employ researchers, endowments set up by discipline or institution, friends of the cause of open access, profits from the sale of add-ons to the basic texts, funds freed up by the demise or cancellation of journals charging traditional subscription or access fees, or even contributions from the researchers themselves.’” (323-324).

Okay, so this passage should give you an idea of the reasons people want OA and the lack of reasonable funding advice advocates provide — I don’t know about you, but to me none of those suggestions at the end there seem feasible for humanities journals in 2015.

For the next excerpts, you need to know that the article defines green OA as: “scholarly research freely available to all potential users immediately upon publication through open digital repositories” usually provided by the author’s institution or the author themselves.

In regards to the success, or lack thereof, of OA:

“First, only ‘7.7 percent of the scholarly articles published’ in 2009 used the gold OA model…In another study, green OA fared better: Twenty-one per cent of articles published in subscription journals were available as self-archived versions. However, this still leaves nearly 80 per cent of subscription articles behind access barriers” (325).

“Even more disappointing is the fact that indexing and discoverability of the Green OA articles that do exist is still imperfect and therefore makes finding these works challenging…as green OA gets more sophisticated (as indexing and discoverability improve), it is more likely that budget-starved librarians will decide to cancel subscriptions to journals that are fully available in institutional repositories” (326).

“Over the last decade, author fees have become the standard way to support OA journals. Perhaps a better term would be ‘review and dissemination fees’ since that is what they are used for and need not be tied to authors’ pockets. Critics of gold OA have suggested that using this model is in fact unsustainable because author fees are not any more affordable than subscription fees. Duke University, in an early example, would have paid the same amount on author fees for reports published in 2003 by their social science and science faculty in PLoS as they did on their entire journal subscription budget in the prior year” (327-328).

“Not surprisingly, outside support for gold OA fees is lacking for researchers in disciplines like the humanities that often do not receive research funding, researchers from developing or otherwise economically underprivileged countries, and graduate students, unemployed PhDs, and adjunct faculty who feel pressured to publish to increase their odds of being hired for a tenure track position. Undeniably, researchers in these groups may very well be at a disadvantage in using gold OA” (329).

The first passages here seem to indicate that OA is not successful in achieving its goals of spreading through academia and making content accessible to all. The last few passages provide some of the reasons why, mainly – again – due to funding.

(here is the link to this article: )


In “The JAH in the Digital Age: A Conversation — Opening Remarks, 2015 Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians–Saturday, April 18, 2015,” David Prior (assistant editor of JAH) shared some opinions on the incentives (or lack thereof) for history journals to go digital.

Though JAH is much larger than FHQ (their staff is made up of 17 people), their revenue is generated in much of the same way: “The JAH derives its revenue from institutional subscriptions, individual members of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), and advertising. The JAH also has business relationships with Oxford University Press (OUP), which oversees the printing, promotion, and distribution of the JAH, and the History Department at Indiana University (IU), which provides financial support and staff” (1). There are obvious differences between the two, but I thought that a lot of Mr. Prior’s comments are relevant to FHQ and the overall incentives/reservations to going digital:

“Although access to the JAH requires either individual or institutional fees, the JAH has little if any evidence that there are substantial numbers of people who want to read the JAH but who are priced out of access…Also, OAH members and institutional subscribers continue to believe JAH content is worth its modest cost” (4).

“With Open Access and double-blind review, the JAH is aware of and interested in the broader conversations taking place within the humanities. But in both cases the JAH does not as yet feel that revising policies on these topics will enhance the journal’s ability to produce scholarship and deliver it to interested readers” (6).

“The digital age has opened up to the profession a host of new opportunities, but these are wrapped up with complex and overlapping problems” (11).

So again, these passages do a good job of explaining reasons against going OA. And of course that last quote perfectly sums up the complexity of publication practices.

(here is a link to this article: )


So, in regards to OA, some of my thoughts have changed since last week.

I still think that state journals occupy a unique gray area in that they are tied to state historical societies and must think about society subscriptions when deciding what content to provide digitally because they don’t receive as much subsidization from universities as the JAH’s of the world do, and because state societies and their publications do (and should) work together as a team–one in the same entity. And I still think that state historical societies should poll their subscribers to understand exactly why they subscribe – again, if most subscribers would remain subscribers despite state journals being OA, then that could be a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario, and everyone would win.

However, having read a bit more (including the above excerpts), I think questions about OA need to be asked as well. Firstly, does OA really do all the things it sets out to? Are there really tons of people out there pining for information they can’t access? If all content is OA, does that provide people with greater access, or streamline access in such a way as to cause people to miss ‘the bigger picture’? Imagine that people read only the articles they are looking for, and miss many articles that are helpful to them that they would have caught had they had a print copy, and physically seen more. How might OA lead to slippages in content quality of journals? These are just a few of many questions.

Overall, I think OA is a bit suspect, and though it is truly fantastic in theory, I personally don’t know how it would work in practice. Furthermore, I don’t know that the current state of things is as bad as OA advocates sometimes indicate.

And of course, the major question always comes back to money:

Who is going to pay for OA? Imagine that journals poll their subscribers, and learn that very few would pay subscriptions if journals were free online. Then what? Imagine that universities decide they don’t want to fully subsidize humanities journals to be OA (which is pretty much how it is now, from what I’ve read). Then who—who—is going to fit the bill?

Don’t look for answers here. Not yet, anyway. Like I said before, this is not a summer semester project. I doubt it’s even a thesis or dissertation project, honestly. Once you learn about OA, you need to consider monograph publishing. Once you figure that out, you need to understand pressures faced by University Presses, and so on and so forth forever and into infinity, so it seems. Questions provoke new questions, and the whole discovery process feels more like a vicious cycle.

Researching journals and digitization is extremely educational, thought-provoking, and enlightening, but is not very fruitful in the cultivation of quick and easy answers. However, I think it’s such an important thing for graduate students to learn about if any solution is to come in the near future, because new minds might find new solutions – we should definitely have a ‘Publishing Practices’ Colloquium in the near future for students who plan to move onto the PhD level. This is crucial stuff!

Until next time, best to all!


Week 9: State Historical Societies, Their Journals, and OA Restrictions

Hello again, everyone!

This week I have been continuing the secondary reading for my research project.


The idea of ‘open access’ kept popping up in my reading, and I realized that I really didn’t know much about it. Open access (OA) is a term — or better yet, a movement — among academic journals and presses meaning that all content is provided freely, openly, and immediately online upon publication. In other words, instead of waiting for a print journal to come, and only getting that print journal because you’re a subscriber, you just visit the website and voila — there’s the content.

The idea of OA goes beyond JSTOR and ProjectMUSE. See, for us as students, we might think that a journal publishing immediately on ProjectMUSE means that journal is totally OA. But remember, ProjectMUSE and JSTOR are only ‘free’ and ‘open’ to us because our UCF tuition pays for it. As soon as we leave UCF and our PIDs and NIDs go away, so to does our ‘access’ to ProjectMUSE.

Now, here is the issue — OA sounds all well and good, and in theory it is. After all, academia is supposed to be about scholarly research and the dissemination of knowledge. Why, then, should content from academic journals be restricted or closed off to anyone who’s interested, be they professors, students, or simply curious readers?

Pretty simple — Money.

And before you start rolling your eyes about the greed of academic institutions, keep in mind — academic journals (most of them anyway) aren’t attempting to make bookoo bucks and swim in dollar bills. Truly, most of them aren’t really that profitable.

The money issue is simply about paying for the cost of publication.

Now, some of you might be thinking (or at least I was) — “Wait, shouldn’t ‘going digital’ be nearly free?” Think again. Publishing academic articles and book reviews isn’t like having a facebook page — you don’t log on, copy/paste, post, and log off.

First, you have to think about the editing staff — after all, people have to edit the articles (trust me, there are always mistakes to be found). Then think about web editing — you can’t expect content editors to have the time, energy, or knowledge to edit articles and set up and maintain a website. Then think about storage — you can’t buy a flash drive at CVS and store decades of articles. Quite frankly, there’s a lot more finances to consider that I don’t even know about, despite all the articles I’ve read for my research — the publication process is just that nuanced.

Ultimately, digital publishing can be equally as or even more expensive than print publishing, given additional web staff and storage costs that come with digital.


Once I understood what OA entailed and the cost of digital publication, I started to wonder “Why can’t state historical societies pay for their journal to go digital?”

Remember, I’m working at FHQ, and my research project has to do with state history journals. FHQ and most other state history journals are funded primarily through subscriptions to the state historical societies that sponsor them. So, if a state history journal like FHQ becomes completely OA, where is the incentive for people to purchase subscriptions to the Florida Historical Society?

In a perfect world, people would subscribe to state historical societies regardless of what they get in return — they would see the value in preserving state history and would subscribe as though it were a charitable donation to a worthy cause. However, the reality is that many people subscribe to state historical societies, at least in part, to get a copy of the society’s journal. Make the journal OA, and there’s potential for many people to cancel their state historical society subscription.


 I thought about it for a while, after reading all these articles about OA, and I think it’s time (if it hasn’t been done already) for state historical societies to survey their subscribers and figure out exactly why people subscribe.

If the response trends toward things like obligation, desire, charity, etc… then state journals can go OA, increasing their visibility, accessibility, and citability, and in turn their significance in the academic community, without necessarily hurting society subscriptions. Better still, subscribers could still be given a print copy of the state journal, with current issue PDFs going up freely on the journal website, and storage of archived articles managed either by the site itself (which, as mentioned before, would add cost — how much, I don’t exactly know, hence the ‘infantile’ in the title of this segment) or by the author of the article in an open access repository (if the journal stores articles, it’s ‘gold OA’, if the author does it in a repository, it’s ‘green OA’, but that’s for another article at another time).

If, however, survey responses show that most people subscribe for a copy of the journal, perhaps further questioning could find out whether they would stop subscribing if the journal were OA. In other words, find out whether or not people would pay for a print hard copy even if it were available online, or if online access would completely eliminate the desire to pay for print.

Now, if people ultimately said that they subscribed to state historical societies specifically for journal articles, and would cancel if the journal went OA, then all parties involved would need to take a serious look in the mirror and decide: What are we here for?

If the ultimate goal is dissemination of knowledge, then perhaps state journals and state historical societies need to divorce. After all, if state journals are restricted from OA because they are beholden to state historical societies and their subscriptions, then is the marriage worth it? If state journals can develop new frameworks for revenue, or at least financial subsistence, that would allow them to embrace OA, thus, as mentioned before, increasing their visibility, accessibility, and citability, and in turn their significance in the academic community, then shouldn’t they do it?


Do state journals have an ethical obligation to remain wedded to state societies due to their mutual goal of preserving, recording, and promoting state history? Not only that, but the same historians who might promote OA and its benefits would also have to admit that eroding the longstanding relationship between state historical societies and their state journals brings with it an inherent disregard for history, community, and loyalty.

Again, the key word in this segment is infantile, because I simply am not experienced or well-versed enough to make a decision.

However, I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to recognize that state journals, so long as they are beholden to state societies, will not be going OA any time soon. Ultimately, it seems that state societies rely on state journals to entice subscribers. And perhaps, as alluded to before, that’s how it should be. After all, both are aiming to protect the same thing — state history.

Hopefully more research and experience will turn this OA infant into an OA adult, or at least an OA teenager. I hope, more than anything, that somebody, somewhere, finds out a way to do it all — keep state society subscriptions healthy while making state journals OA, and having the two work in concert together.

Only question is, who’ll pay to make this happen?



Week 8: Free Time and Great News!

Hello again!

This week provided a lot of opportunity to catch up on all the projects I have going on. Drs. Murphree and Lester were both out much of the week, and other than sending a few emails, I was pretty much free to work on other things. I definitely didn’t waste the opportunity on surfing the net, because, like many students in the grad program, my workload can feel insane at times. As of now, I am working on:

1) The historiography assignment for the summer internship. I am working on a historiographic essay that examines FHQ articles related to my thesis topic. This way, I’ll develop a catalog of secondary literature that can help inform and shape my own work, while also delving into the various kinds of articles that have appeared in FHQ over the years. It really feels like a win-win in that sense.

2) The research assignment for the summer internship. This is the same project I described a few weeks ago that I submitted to Brown for their upcoming conference. Still no word yet from Brown, but either way the project has to get done.

3) My thesis research. The thesis has really been coming together the past month, as Orlando Sentinel archives have essentially guided my topic — I’ll be doing a comparative analysis of the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic’s efforts to procure an NBA franchise for the 1988 season. In 1987, the NBA let both cities and organizations know that either one or the other would get a team –not both– which fueled a vitriolic war of words between Miami and Orlando citizens, city officials, and team officials, all documented in local newspapers. In addition, each city rushed to pass legislation and tax appropriations through local government, sidestepping the standard legislative process in order to quickly procure funds for arena construction — a major stipulation placed on the franchises by the NBA if they hoped to get a team in the league (in other words, ‘build a stadium quick, or no team’). What’s more, both Miami and Orlando government officials chose to construct their stadiums in politically and economically voiceless minority neighborhoods, drastically altering the built urban environment while displacing thousands of minority families and increasing population density in already crowded inner-city areas. If successful, my thesis will demonstrate the role of sport in uniting communities — in this case, elite white communities who controlled politics, could afford ticket prices, and who built their identities through inter-city vitriol — while dividing others — in this case, voiceless minorities who were adversely affected by arena construction. In addition, I’ll explores the ways in which both franchises misappropriated tax dollars, adversely affecting all residents.

The big hiccup thus far has been accessing Miami Herald archives — not nearly as easy as finding Orlando Sentinel archives. But I’ve been working on it, and it looks like I’ll be able to get some microfilm in through ILL

4) The Fulbright. As some of you know, I’m aiming to submit a Fulbright application for Australia, with the goal of making this Heat-Magic thesis project just one small part of a much larger transnational study on the impact of professional sports franchises operating in the Anglophone world. The idea being that in Australia, I could examine professional rugby teams, and then for the PhD examine teams in the UK. So, I have been working diligently to bounce ideas off of my contact in Australia ( a professor at the University of Queensland who I met at a conference in May ) and he has been extremely helpful — he loves my idea and is helping me gather some archival sources so that I can have a solidified research plan for the Fulbright application. A pristine application is essential if I have any shot at a Fulbright, and an affiliation letter from my contact along with a solid idea and research plan will help my chances. But, of course, it takes a lot of time. I anticipate having most of the application done by August 1, when I will begin sending out reference letter links to my letter writers.


5) CAPSTONE. Per Dr. Sacher’s advice, I have been working hard to prepare for my Capstone exams well before the fall. I have met with both of my committee members and have provided them with proposed book lists. One wants me to read through my list, and find where the gaps are. Ultimately, that particular exam will require me to explain, in detail, what the historiographic trends in the literature are, and I can tell that this first task (find the gaps) is an indication that I’m close to having a solid book list, but far enough away that my professor knows I am missing something. For the other professor, my proposed list has been approved, on the condition that I find a few more articles that combine my thesis topic with our class topic. My task for that professor is to develop an appropriate question based off of the class readings and those readings I have chosen on my own (mostly sport and community identity books and articles).

6) Thesis proposal. Now, this might seem essentially the same as the thesis research, but, as most of you who took Historiography know, there’s a lot more to a proposal than just research. So whenever I can, I try to reassess where my proposal is at, and try to clean it up a bit. Dr. Crepeau (my adviser) has been great at giving me time, and advice, and I anticipate having my first draft to him by the end of July.

7) Get an article published! Obviously I don’t mean right away — it generally takes at least a year between submission and publication, but I am at least writing an article to submit for a journal called NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture. This article is backed by so many primary resources, it practically writes itself. However, the longer I spend on it, the longer I have to wait to see it in print.

8) THIS IS WHERE THE ‘GOOD NEWS’ FROM THE TITLE COMES IN! This week, I got two bits of great news. First, Dr. Crepeau and I are going to give a presentation for the Oveido Historical Society on town baseball in the 19/early 20 centuries. That’ll be in September. He told me not to do any additional work for it, because my paper for him talked all about it — but obviously I am going to do some more research on my end, just so that I hold my own in the talk. And second, I am going to do a Book Review for FHQ. As part of the deal, I got a free book! It’s a book I’ve really wanted to own anyway, and it’s a very cool ‘full circle’ feeling, because the book grew out of a museum exhibit that I saw during its opening weekend. I was an undergraduate at FAU, having just switched to History for my major, and one of my professors told me about an exhibit called Surfing Florida: A Photographic History. It was a very well laid out exhibit. Now, all these years later, I’ll be reviewing the book that grew out of that exhibit — and for what will probably be my first publication! I’m very grateful to Dr. Murphree for the opportunity. It’s a great book thus far (but of course I’ll have to do my best to set aside bias and critique it where necessary):

031712 - BOCA RATON, FL -  History of Florida Surfing Exhibition at The University Galleries in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters ÒSurfing Florida: A Photographic History,Ó  has been developed for the past three years by University Galleries Director W. Rod Faulds and Paul Aho, the exhibitionÕs curator, a lifelong Florida surfer and head of photography and digital imaging at the Paducah School of Art. photo by Tim Stepien Photo Reprints can be purchased online through smugmug at
BOCA RATON, FL – History of Florida Surfing Exhibition at The University Galleries in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, Florida Atlantic University

image (18)

So anyway, that has been my week (er, summer) thus far. Having a bit of free time in the office really helped me work on each of my projects, keeping me on track to complete everything.


All the best, everyone! I enjoy reading all the blogs, and keep up the good work!




Week 7: A ‘Learning Internship’ — Florida History, Source Material, and Broader Themes

I’ve touched on this in previous posts, but this week I’d like to emphasize how nice it is to work in a learning environment.

As I’ve said before, most of my editing duties are spent focusing on the small details of articles, and for a large part of the process I’m not really able to get much from the article in terms of its substance.

However, one of the crucial elements of editing involves checking for syntax and grammar issues, and this cannot be done without a thorough understanding of what the author is trying to say in each and every sentence.

During this ‘syntax stage’ of the editing process, I read the article from top to bottom — and sometimes twice, if I felt that I might have missed something. And that’s where the real learning comes in.

So far this semester, I have learned about African-American Union soldiers in Florida during the Civil War, Bahamian fishermen in the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, the structure of military hospitals during WWII, the journey of a famous author during his quest to discover Florida’s environment, and — most recently — the roll of religious rhetoric in political debates surrounding the Equal Rights Amendment in Florida during the 1970s.

Normally, I wouldn’t read these articles — not out of a lack of interest in them, but rather due to time constraints and the reading demand tied to my own projects. So being an editor at FHQ essentially affords me an opportunity to read interesting works I would have otherwise ignored. In doing so, I’m learning more about Florida’s history than I ever thought I would.

Aside from the history in the articles themselves, I have also noticed some of the archival sources cited, and a few of these seem like potential reservoirs for documents pertaining to my own thesis research — mainly sources for Florida government documents that I didn’t know existed. On the surface, this might only seem to help an FHQ intern if their projects focus on an aspect of Florida history, like mine does. However, another glance at the articles I described a couple paragraphs up will give one an idea of the wide variety of source material used in the articles — sources on African-Americans in the military, the ‘Atlantic World’, military logistics, literary analysis, and gender studies, to name a few. Sure, the articles themselves pertain to Florida. But the subject matter — in my reading this summer — always transcends Florida history and speaks to broader themes that can be applicable to students and scholars of any field or discipline. As such, the sources used in, and the content of, the articles have been extremely beneficial.

This has truly been a ‘learning internship.’

All the best to the other interns!

Until next week,

Garrett Hillyer