Professor Genevieve Carpio showed Photogrammar to our class at our first meeting. I was immediately impressed by its fusion of photography and geography. Later, I used Google to search for urban history projects on the web. One query, "American urban history exhibits" (with "online" accidentally omitted) brought me to the professional website of Margaret O'Mara, a professor of History at the University of Washington. She lists some of her favorite history websites, including many about "American Cities, Past and Present." It was here that I found Invincible Cities. The similarities between Invincible Cities and Photogrammar were immediately apparent, so I began looking for another site that used mapping and photography to study California history. The trio was completed when Professor Carpio recommended Ethington's Los Angeles and the Problem of Historical Knowledge.
When a link to Los Angeles... was published in the December 2000 issue of the American Historical Review, it broke new ground for scholarship in the digital humanities (Burton 2005, 210). The heart of the site is a written essay with the same title, which is broken up into "concepts," that can be read as short essays on their own. Menu bars on the left and the top of the page provide links to "Locations," "Concepts," "Genres," and "Maps." "Locations" brings visitors to a clickable map of Los Angeles with several major roads highlighted. Links to panoramic photos and "sequential views" can be found along these roads. "Genres" provides more direct links to these photos and other graphics on the site.
Every image found in Invincible Cities was captured by Camilo José Vergara, whose photographs of American ghettos have earned him a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Humanities Medal. The National Endowment for the Humanities described the site as "the culmination of his career" (Meyers 2012). Invincible Cities contains photo-maps of Camden, New Jersey; Harlem, New York; and Richmond, California. Moving and clicking a set of crosshairs over a complete street map of a neighborhood/city makes a close-up of the selected area appear in an adjacent panel. Viewers can control the time-range of the images displayed and scroll through photo "tours" based on general and localized topics. Vergara directs his photographic focus on seven key features of ghetto communities: the fortification of buildings, ruins, empty lots, care-taking institutions, art and advertisements, public service billboards, and rising suburbanization (Vergara 2005).
Photogrammar is a new and ongoing effort led by historians at Yale. Laura Wexler, a professor of American Studies and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, serves as its primary investigator. Lauren Tilton, a doctoral candidate in History, co-directs the project with Taylor Arnold, a statistics PhD. On Photogrammar, users can browse through the Library of Congress' massive repository of FSA-OWI photos in innovative ways. Interactive maps of the United States arrange the photos by county or in multicolored "dots" that represent particular photographers. Photos are presented with metadata and classification information that enables the website to suggest "similar" photographs. In the "Labs" section of the site, users can click through a visual "treemap" of photo classifications and visualize metadata from photographs taken in California.
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