Finer Geographies: Using Photographs and Maps for Street Scale Urban History



The Nexus, MIT Hayden Library


Nov 30, 2022


5:00 EST



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This event is hosted by MIT Programs in Digital Humanities.

About this event

Many of the traditional sources of historical evidence for examining urban change draw attention to transformations at a grand scale. When historians have turned their attention to micro-scale histories, they have often done so through a case study or even anecdotal methodology, partly due to the lack of sources which provide micro-scale detail across large chronological and geographical extents.

In this talk, Dr. Garrett Dash Nelson, President and Head Curator of the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library, will share two projects that use digital humanities methods to capture fine-grained geographies of urban history. The first, Sunset Over Sunset, developed with co-PIs Brian Goldstein and Francesca Russello Ammon, draws on a large corpus of street photography of twentieth century Los Angeles created by Ed Ruscha and digitized by the Getty Research Institute. This project has involved building bespoke web tools to combine the thousands of street-level images with parallel sources for evidence that draw attention to small gestures in urban redevelopment. The second, Atlascope, a project at the Leventhal Map & Education Center, involves the digitization, digital interpretation, and tertiary data extraction of information from Boston-area fire insurance and real estate atlases, and will be the basis for a 2023 exhibition at the Center.

All MIT community members are welcome. Non-MIT guests and guests without an MIT ID should RSVP to

Hosted by the MIT Libraries and Programs in Digital Humanities, the Digital Humanities Workshop provides a flexible, dynamic space for faculty and researchers to connect with each other about digital research and teaching topics.

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