RSVP is required, please CLICK HERE.

Maps are a wonderful metaphor for the new media world. But even more, digital mapping has altered the way that we perceive and represent space. This symposium will offer presentations and discussions about these new forms of cartographic methods in the digital humanities. We will look at old maps and new ones, learn about historical data and geo-spatial techniques, and study New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

The afternoon will be devoted to two presentations along with a roundtable and reception.


Aligning Past and Present: New Tools for the study of Historical Geography
Matthew Knutzen, Geospatial Librarian, New York Public Library Map Division

The NYPL has built a toolkit at that enables the study of the historical landscapes. Utilizing these tools, the general public and scholarly community alike, can create powerful juxtapositions of old and new maps that both highlight and answer spatial questions. Furthermore, users can transcribe static images of historical maps into mashable datasets, unlocking the potential for new modes of historical and geographical inquiry and data visualization. During this talk, Mr. Knutzen will demonstrate, highlight and present use cases for

New Deal Visions, Post-War Plans? Visualization, Remapping, and the Politics of Urban Space
Janice Reiff, Associate Professor, Department of History, UCLA

The economic crisis of the 1930s turned federal attention to America’s cities with an urgency previous unknown. Spurred on by massive urban unemployment, municipal debt, and crises in housing and banking and abetted by the maturization of urban and regional planning, New Deal officials launched multiple programs that investigated and documented the nation’s cities. Works Progress Administration (WPA) canvassers visited individual homes in 1934 to survey real property and again in 1937 for a land use survey. Some of the same individuals worked with local investigators in creating the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) descriptions and maps that contributed the word “redlining” to subsequent generations of scholars and individuals unable to secure Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loan guarantees. Researchers for Federal Writers Project (FWP) of the WPA collected massive amounts of information on institutions, buildings, and locations across the country and condensed them into guides to the cities themselves or to substantial sections of the WPA Guides to states that encouraged residents and visitors to tour those cities. Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographers captured images of urban residents and the spaces in which they lived. WPA interviewers gave other residents an opportunity to talk about their experiences in them.

This body of data, especially the WPA land surveys and the HOLC documents, was, almost immediately, used as cities planned first for World War II and then for the large-scale urban redevelopment that followed the war. It provided evidence for declaring certain areas blighted and ripe for “renewal.” It helped to rationalize policies that channeled mortgage funds into new suburban developments, too often starving urban neighborhoods red- or yellow-lined for their age or diverse populations. Historians, like other scholars, have long noted these connections, pointing to the consequences, intentional and not, of the social and cultural assumptions built into the data helped to create not only the urban crises of the 1960s but also the shape of contemporary urban America.

More recently, another group of scholars has begun to challenge and fine-tune that interpretation. Using digital tools, they have demonstrated, for instance, that there were many fates for redlined districts and that those choices depended heavily on local preferences and politics. This project builds on both those insights and an array of digital tools as it attempts to bring together that wide array of New Deal data on the city to appreciate the complex social, cultural, and political geographies that shaped post-war cities. By incorporating all the sources mentioned above using a variety of mapping techniques as well as textual and quantitative analysis, it becomes possible to see not only the competing descriptions of urban spaces but also the cultural readings of those spaces that shaped the contests over post-war redevelopment that erupted across the United States. This presentation will focus on the New Deal texts, maps, and data on Chicago and Los Angeles and the digital techniques that make it possible to remap those cities and to raise new questions about the evolution of those cities in the decades that followed.



Matthew Knutzen, Geospatial Librarian, New York Public Library Map Division Janice Reiff, Associate Professor, Department of History, UCLA Wendy Bellion, Associate Professor, Department of Art History, University of Delaware David Jaffee, Professor, BGC

All events take place at the Lecture Hall in 38 West 86th Street, New York City between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West.

For general information, please contact