Week 6 – Finding puzzle pieces

I am at Week 6 here at the Olmsted Center; this week has been a continuation of mapping historic conditions. A great new skill I learned this week is how to geo-reference historic images and maps in GIS so that the features line up more accurately to the projected coordinate system. Typically – in school I would have just overlayed and manipulated the historic images in photoshop but since all of the NPS map products have to be fed back into GIS – using this “geo-referencing” feature in ArcGIS has been really handy.

It’s been an interesting process to look at all these old maps and seeing what has changed over time…it is kind of like reading a book backwards (you know the ending of the book and the aim is to figure out what happened between now and then. Each map has little bits of new information that needs to be traced and incorporated into the AutoCad file. We also finally received the high-resolution scan of this 1914 topographic map of the site…it is interesting to see the patterns of field and forest change, what structures have remained through time, and the different types of agriculture and industry that influenced the site.

Simultaneously, I have also been writing and researching as I’ve been tracing. I’ve become interested in learning more about the major families that farmed on the site. The Chandlers, Twaddells, Talleys, and Ramseys were the major farming families that owned large contiguous parcels. At the same time – all of this has to be set within the large context of the events happening nationally and regionally. Right now, I am working on the historical narrative for the 1930s-present. Key national events that would have impacted the site is the Great Depression and WWII – how did this impact the economy and agriculture of the region and the Brandywine? Everything is a work in progress…finding new puzzle pieces each day and seeing how they fit into the big picture!

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