They say history repeats itself and I’m about to repeat my own history…that is my own history thesis experience…very soon.
Back in my undergraduate days, research for my history thesis took me to the Sutro Library in San Francisco, where I found a treasure of maps, newspapers and genealogical data from around the country. I was searching for a good case study in the kind of rapid social, economic and political change that typified the US in the late 19th Century. I found it in Will County, Illinois.
Pouring over old newspaper accounts, personal papers, county census data and the city records of Joliet, Illinois (most of which had to be mailed to me in that very early Internet era), I began to piece together the remarkable story of how an area of the Illinois prairie went from Frontier to Farm Hub to Factory Town. It was all due to transportation…first through canals, then through the railroad, bringing new ideas and immigrants to the area in an explosion of change that spanned a single lifetime.
In a couple of weeks, I get to take part in a new history project, this one building the next generation tool that will allow future researchers to cull the remarkable collections of the Chicagoland area’s many historical archives, museums and libraries, including some of those I used as an undergrad.
The Chicago Collections Consortium will bring together partner institutions together to begin building a single portal linking 14 institutions to enable remote users to find the historical resources they need.
Here’s an article on the project that appeared in the Sun Times.
My role will be advising the committee and consultants on appropriate technologies to be used for the portal. Should be fun…and very nostalgiac.