Digital Humanities Scholarship

At the University of Richmond's Digital Scholarship Lab, I have begun a series of mapping projects in collaboration with students and our GIS experts. Until they are published on American Panorama, these maps are still very much works in progress.


Using Federal Reserve reports since 1919, we are mapping aggregate debits (cash in and out) of all banks monitored by the Fed in cities deemed significant enough to track. Collected as a rough way to track economic activity, the maps will quite literally follow the money as capital flows throughout the 20th c. United States. In the screen shot above, most cities are still enjoying the roaring twenties: green indicates relative gain against the previous year's performance; red indicates decline. The size of the circle indicates total amount of capital, while the relative opacity suggests degree of change (more opaque the greater the change). Click here to scroll through the opening years of the project, beginning with the post-WWI recession (when a federal investment in a new deep water port near Houston triggered the only uptick in economic activity), through the 1920s, and up to the onset of the Great Depression. 


Using a blend of federal and local data, we are mapping the roughly 4,000 Urban Renewal projects funded by the federal government between 1949 and 1974. By the late 1960s, according to one estimate, Urban Renewal was displacing some 66,000 families annually, a burden disproportionately born by minority residents. In addition to including a series of local case studies, our national map will offer data over time by city for all programs, including federal expenditures, non-white v. white families displaced, as well changes in urban land use by zoning category (e.g., residential, commercial, or industrial).


Using HUD's rich set of GIS data, we are building a national map scalable to the local level that traces poverty rates by census tract over time and includes federal Community Development Block Grant expenditures by category (e.g., public housing or economic development). Block Grant funds were initially created in 1974-75 by bundling together and deregulating a variety of mid-century urban programs, including Urban Renewal and programs from the War on Poverty such as Community Action. These maps will enable us to illuminate patterns in the local use of federal antipoverty and development dollars since HUD started comprehensively keeping the data in 1981.