Tag: DH

Summer Research Reflection

In the beginning of the summer, I thought I had the perfect envision for my research project. I had a solid research question, “How do Pennsylvania anthracite mining communities publicly represent their heritage?,” and a plethora of ideas to pursue. As the summer progressed, I realized that my scope was incredibly ambitious to complete in eight weeks. Instead of developing a two month research plan, I had created a much longer in-depth goal.

After some weeks, I had to find different ways to tighten my scope and realize a definite project by the end of July. As an undergraduate, having completed a successful research project is an invaluable experience. In two short months, I was able to expand on prior research that I partook in and expand my knowledge of a particular area of study. I really enjoyed finding a new niche and field — the intersection of landscape architecture and memory studies. Through extensive readings and applying certain theories, I have developed a new perspective to view the world and, particularly, my relationship with my hometown.

Additionally, I was able to learn more about the field of digital humanities and collaborate with my peers about how to integrate digital scholarship into our own classes. A great component about Digital Scholarship is that it encourages collaboration. It was an absolute pleasure to work in a student cohort with Justin, Minglu, and Rennie. Although we conducted independent research, throughout the summer we gave each other constructive feedback. Also, Courtney and Carrie were essential with keeping us on track and helping us work through the various digital platforms. It was great being introduced to many of the library and IT staff. I am so pleased to know so many wonderful people now.

My final research project is a digital database curating ten monuments and analyzing their symbology and significance to the anthracite region. Also, by critiquing their urban spaces this illuminated how Shamokin has the potential to represent their coal mining heritage. The digital database is not an exhaustive list of monuments in the anthracite coal region of PA; however, it is a genesis of a much larger digital archive intended to establish a connection with a town’s history and heritage through public monuments.

I created a “walking-tour” of the monuments by using a few different interactive platforms for the reader. There is a timeline, map, and digital gallery of the monuments. This allows the reader to view the monuments historically, geographically, and as a curation. There are newspapers for some monuments so that the reader can read about the importance of the monument through a public medium. There are also some photos analyzed for their symbology of the PA anthracite coal region, and I try to propose how Shamokin could represent their heritage as well. I encourage the reader to visit these monuments as well to experience their distinct urban spaces.

Please visit my site and feel free to contact me with any suggestions or information you may have!

-Tyler Candelora ’19 tdc008@bucknell.edu


Research Issues

During the summer of 2016, I started my first research project, and I was using digital humanities tools. There was so much I had learned from that experience from archiving data to using Omeka and Neatline. There was not a steep learning curve in terms of the platforms I was using. Instead, the most difficult part of the research was learning how to conduct “research,” especially in the (digital) humanities field. I thought that I would be able to anticipate some of these challenges again, but I still had some trouble along the way.

The most important experience I gained was that research can change while one is investigating different materials and resources. For me, I always view a big picture when I begin my research project. I can picture methodologies, the end goal, life after the project, ways to incorporate it for a bigger audience, etc. However, this can become a real issue when I only have eight weeks to produce meaningful conclusions. Thus, thinking I learned from the previous summer, I fell into this trap again.

I had to re-scope my  project each week in order to make further advances. Thus, the number of newspapers and monuments I wanted to archive dwindled, and the number of platforms I had wanted to use. Now I know that less is truly more. When you have less material, I thought it meant that my project was becoming less-meaningful and that if I had eight weeks I could have produced more if I would have worked harder. But, since I made my scope smaller, I realized that I can dive into more specific and interesting texts to uncover materials that were not previously sought after.

This brings me to my next problem within conducting research. I have a constant need to examine whether or not my research is actually contributing something to this world. Being a humanities major on Bucknell’s campus along with a plethora of natural science and engineering majors can be a hassle. Sometimes when I talk to science majors about the research I do, it is looked down upon as unimportant. Later after thinking about my contributions through my research, I realized that this is quite the contrary. A science major’s and a humanities major’s research both contribute to meaningful research to their areas of studies if they choose to put the time and effort into their work. Also, I have a different audience than a science major and different plans for the afterlife of my work. It will and it should take different forms.

Another problem is that it is difficult to conduct research alone while being efficient. There are distractions in life and certainly during the summer. I found that working in a group setting and getting automatic feedback proved to really push me along. Sometimes when working alone, I did not realize how slow I was reading or archiving materials.

Overall, I hope that in my next future research project, I can become much better at creating a scope that fits well within my timeframe. I really enjoy discovering new materials that I never knew existed within my studies and I feel very lucky to be learning through my own archiving. I really enjoyed learning all of the digital platforms, and I hope I can use them in further projects in class or conducting research. There is so much more to learn about research and many avenues that humanities research can take that I know I want to do more projects after this one. But until then, these last three weeks will be hectic, pulling all the information together and creating different visualizations!

Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Coal Region

Pennsylvania’s Anthracite Coal Region

There are a plethora of occupations that are dependent upon the formation of the land in a certain location.  The development and design of a landscape has a lasting impact on the means of production and labor that create an effective economy. In central Pennsylvania, the anthracite coal mining region began in roughly 1792 with the founding of the Lehigh Coal Mine Company by Josiah White and Erskine Hazard. This was the first commercially operated coal mine. The anthracite region would see new mines developing throughout prominently six counties: Luzerne, Lackawanna, Carbon, Northumberland, Columbia, and Schuylkill. Thus geographically, there are northern, middle, and southern anthracite fields.

As anthracite mining began spreading rapidly throughout central Pennsylvania, many problems arose surrounding working conditions, town life, pay, etc. It was common for miners to have major and minor accidents within and outside of the mines. There were many perilous activities a miner had to perform.

The coal companies began hiring boys to work in the mines as early as ages six to eight. They would pick rock, slate, and refuse out of the coal in the breaker; an arduous and dangerous task for a young boy.[1] There were usually contract miners, laborers, foremen, and superintendents that worked per colliery. There was a large inequality of wages between laborers and miners that caused a further divide between ethnic enclaves. The Welsh immigrants who were skilled miners who usually became the foremen and superintendents of a colliery. While Irish immigrants were “distrusted” by the coal owners and other miners. This was partly because of the Molly Maguire movement, who were accused of murder, arson, and other crimes throughout the mining districts.

Nevertheless, the dangers and the perils of a coal miner were extreme. The mines could be very difficult to mine in without proper lightning, protection, ventilation, or other essential equipment. Usually due to poor ventilation, mine fires would trap miners in the coal mines and the only means of escape was the main shaft, which at times would be destroyed by flames.[2] Other mining accidents included accidents due to poor quality of the colliery with columns falling on people, and commonly floods, which would occur when a geological depression in the mine filled with water and created a flood in the mine.[3] If a miner did not die from an accident in the coal mine, it was common to die from “miner’s lung” or “black lung” from the sulfur toxins in the mines. In order to provide for their families and contribute to the economic prosperity of their town, miners would sacrifice their well-being and risk death.[4]

In order to preserve the heritage and culture of the coal mining industry, while paying homage to the coal miners and their families, some anthracite communities choose to represent coal miners through monuments. These representations are sometimes specific to a certain town’s coal history, however, many represent the greater Pennsylvania anthracite region.

By critiquing the two out-facing public mediums, newspapers and monuments, I will investigate how Pennsylvania anthracite coal communities choose to represent their coal heritage.

[1]  Janet MacGaffey, Coal Dust on Your Feet: The Rise, Decline, and Restoration of an Anthracite Mining Town (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2013), 23.

[2] Ibid., 25.

[3] Ibid., 25.

[4] The few descriptions of different types of accidents in the coal mines is not an exhaustive list. There were many other perils and dangers depending on the skill level of a miner or laborer and the quality of the colliery and its owners.