Mapping Historical Texts in the Classroom: The Anatolian Travelers Project
The process of mapping provides an active approach for students to engage with landscapes of the past. As part of a graduate-level class called Spatial Analysis of the Past, students were given an assignment to create online maps of nineteenth-century travelers’ accounts about western Anatolia (Turkey). Travelers often record their experiences of journeying through foreign landscapes. Although usually written from the perspective of an outsider, these first-hand accounts can serve as valuable primary source documents for geographical information about these regions. The participation of students in mapping these accounts can prompt deep reflection in the classroom regarding the subjectivity of spatial representations and understandings. This class assignment served as the initial step in a larger research undertaking called the Anatolian Travelers Project, an ongoing, open access initiative. This project attempts to collect, organize, and visualize regional travelers’ accounts through online mapping, to improve our understanding of how people interacted with this landscape and its inhabitants. The project records and compares, among other things, the travelers’ modes of transportation, the routes they chose, their observations about the land and people, and what they felt was worth recording and publishing. Here, we reflect on the use of web mapping as a pedagogical method in teaching the past by reporting on the results of our classroom experimentations. Specifically, we focus on four learning goals: the integration of historical and archaeological methods, an increase in digital literacy among humanities students, experimentation with visualization decisions, and an investigation of landscape and spatial perspectives. Our experiences in the classroom will help inform our future implementations of online mapping as a teaching tool. In terms of technology, we utilized the Neatline plugin to Omeka for mapping, though we consider infrastructure ultimately interchangeable.
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