What can I do over a summer?

Blog Home    |     05.10.2017 by     |    


This is a tough question to answer, especially since I think the central question for me is: what can we do over a summer? Our readings have emphasized the idea of collaboration and exchange in community-engaged work, so while I can set goals for myself, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that this project will involve a host of other people–and communicating with them will be a big part of the project. I’m thinking here of people at my partner organization, with whom I’ll be working to agree on guidelines, strategies and tools and from whom I’ll be learning information about resources and getting feedback on the different components of the project. There’s also the organizations that our map will represent that I may need to contact to verify information and, possibly, to point me towards local humanities projects that have thus far flown under the radar, especially those that are not represented on the internet. There’s also the technical support people who I’ll be interacting with to find out about database maintenance, mapping software, and technical issues with using a (most likely) digital mapping tool to create a useful map. I’m sure once I get started I will find out that the “we” for this project is much bigger, even, than this.


Another person, who will be and is an important part of this process, is my faculty mentor, Professor Greg Downs. I talked with him about my MOU, project framework and concerns I had about time constraints, especially figuring out what I could actually get done during the summer. We worked through two conceptions of the way the work could turn out:

  1. After working on definitions and categories for the project, I could spend the majority of my time gathering the most inclusive and accurate data possible–getting coordinates together, verifying everything, following every lead. Then getting a prototype for the map together.
  2. After working on definitions and categories for the project, I could set a deadline for data gathering and verification with the expectation that the set might be incomplete, something that would need to be added to and built up in the future (an inevitability, anyway). Then, after the allotted data-gathering time, turning my attention to getting a functioning digital map up with a fair number of these data points on it.

For both options, we also talked a good deal about the importance of leaving clear and comprehensive maintenance instructions so that others could edit or add to the project/database map when I’m unavailable to make those changes and add data.

Given this discussion, it seems like an important question for making these projections about summer is: what would be the best way to leave the project, for yourself to return to it or for others to work on it, at the end of the summer? What is its most useful, achievable form for you, your community partner and your public?