Sunday, April 28, 2013

Obstacles Overcame and Future Plans

It has been a little bit since I have blogged last, but as I was told, sometimes in the independent research world, your hit a brick wall. Well I did, and then I busted right through it!
Along with my internship I was enrolled this semester in Dr. Roberts Digital History course. As part of the final project I had to create a product digital history project. Luckily I was able to incorporate my research over the semester into this project. By using a digital mapping platform known as Neatline, I was able to play in their digital sandbox and create a map of the areas Father De Smet traveled to during his time creating the missions. The Neatline platform is amazingly user friendly, and is very versatile. With this platform I was not only able to map where Father De Smet went but also a timeline that populated the map as it moved forward. Talk about creating a digital narrative! With this map, it is very easy to visualize the events as they happened! The other really cool option was the ability to toggle between maps, such as a terrain map, to a topographical one. I was also able to link views of Google Street View into the information boxes of different areas. So in essence it did what I needed it to do and even went a few steps beyond that.
Now as my internship is coming to a close, I feel I must talk about what is in store for me, and the project I am working on. I can gladly announce I was the winner of a Provost Fellowship, and with the funds awarded to me I am going to be traveling to Gonzaga University located in Spokane Washington. Once there I am going to delve into the JesuitOregon Province Archives (JOPA) to get even more research materials. Along the way back from JOPA, I am going to be stopping along the way at all the mission sites that Father De Smet had established in the Pacific Northwest, while taking pictures of these sites to include my own personal version of Google Street View for the this project. During the summer months I will also be working on the prototype I have already created, turning it into a functioning program that can then be on display at LUMA in the summer of 2014.
Overall I believe this internship has been one of the highlights of my academic career. I have been blessed to get to work with such talented professors and other students. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Week Ten: New Technology meets Old World Cartography

            This week I did not do much work with the map itself or background research into Father De Smet and his travels. This week has primarily been research into the digital aspect of this particular project. This is when the work gets really hard, but becomes particularly rewarding!
The main obstacle I have been wrestling with is how to be able to use a digital copy of Father De Smet’s map that depicts the Rocky Mountain missions as well as U.S. Army forts in the area as well as trading posts. In order for such a feat to be accomplished, I am hoping to use the mapping platform MacGPS Pro. With this software, if I am able to figure out the datum and projection of the map, which is normally labeled on the edges of a map, I can have the program upload the digital copy of the De Smet map as an ordinary digital map. Once that is complete all I need to do next is pinpoint two to four exact points on the map with GPS coordinates. Two will not be a problem for both St. Mary’s mission and the Coeur d’Alenes mission due to local records. The last two points I can find on my trip to the area in early May.
In the course of my research on the technology aspect, which actually blends well with a class i am taking ( Digital History), a website came to my attention that will be the model for me to work from. The website is called “Digital Harlem” and has most of the elements I want to incorporate for my project. This includes the making of different overlays to illustrate routes taken as well as possible Native American boundaries of the area.
However, I want to take this model and go a step further. I want to incorporate the ability to change the map type to aerial views such as seen on Google Earth though it’s satellite view. At the same time, during my trip I plan to take pictures of the exact locations of missions in hopes of creating a Street view add on so that these areas as they appear today can be seen as well. By putting all these elements together into one project I believe that this will help create a better overall picture of the life in the Rocky Mountains in the 1840’s, including not only distances that were traveled, but terrain as well.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Week Nine: Maps and Mapping Platforms

This past week has been a bit harder than the rest. This week I have been concentrating on trying to figure out what routes our subject, Father De Smet concentrated on when making his way between the various forts and missions throughout the Pacific Northwest. Once clue has been the terrain of the area. There are a lot of very rugged mountain ranges, and only a few ways in order to get around them. Another clue has been that all of the missions he created in the area are connected to waterways. This makes perfect sense because moving across large expanses of land with lots of cargo would be accomplished easier and faster with the help of water access. This goes along with a trend I have been seeing when looking at modern day local maps of the area. Most of the missions can be easily accessed by the use of a system of waterways, almost like waypoints throughout the area.
One of my tasks this week has been to contact Dr. Dan Flores from the University of Montana. I am hoping that there is some kind of map out there that he may know of, from his background in Western History and obviously his location in Montana that may depict often used Native American trails. In the mean time I have been using a map that was recommended to me from a professor in the history department here at Loyola. This map from the website depict some of the more traveled routes through some of the areas I am particularly interested in. It was this map that helped me realize the proximity of some of the missions to the Oregon Trail.
This week I have also begun to focus my energy on deciding which mapping platform I would like to utilize in order to complete the project. Currently, I am hoping to use a platform such as MacGPS pro. Software like this could help me to really depict the trails of the area, as well as the missions themselves. However, I am still looking at other possibilities, and exploring other websites to see if any of the platforms they used would in any way be more compatible with the maps as well as the overall aim of the project.
Overall I believe the project is coming along as planned, and though it is becoming more and more challenging, this experience and project are both very rewarding! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Weeks Seven and Eight: Exact Locations and More Connections

This week’s blog post will cover the last two weeks since I posted, because of the spring break timeframe. However, just because it was spring break doesn’t mean research wasn’t conducted. During the past two weeks I was able to make contact with some valuable people in the areas of the map I am concerned with. I have been concentrating primarily on the missions themselves, and after the success I had with contacting St. Mary’s mission, I decided to call around to the other missions as well.
I started by calling St. Ignatiusmission in Montana. Although I knew the original mission was not in Montana, I was hoping I could find some information on the original mission site. A very helpful priest at the mission was kind enough to tell me everything he knew about the original location.
Upon deciphering more of the map, I discovered a town, Priest River, ID. This town is located on the banks where two rivers, the Priest River, and the Pend Oreille River meet. This is an important landmark because the St. Ignatius mission is listed just to the west of this location. But the location of this elusive mission was still a mission to me. I spoke to the Bonner County historical society, but they could not shine any more light onto this mystery.
Next, I tried to pin down the location of the original Coeur d’ Alene mission, on the St. Joseph River in ID. I called the national park, Coeur d’ Alene’s Old Mission, and spoke with the rangers there. They put me in touch with a Mr. Matheson who was part of the Native American Tribe in the area. He then gave me the number of a local archeologist, who he believes has the actual GPS coordinates of the original Coeur d’ Alene mission. I have yet to be able to contact him in his office, but when I do, success!!
I then started to try to pinpoint the original location of St. Paul’s mission and actually was able to solve another mystery I was working on, the location of the elusive original St. Ignatius mission. I found the website for the State Park in which St. Paul’s mission is located in. I called then to see what they could tell me about St. Paul’s and after some discussion they were able to help me with St. Ignatius. The location of the original mission is in present day Cusick, Wa. They also informed of another book that may provide aid to my project, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest.
After all the communication with people all over the Northwest, I took another look at the map. I was able to add more updates, such as the new cities I found, and identified possible locations for major places such as Edmonton, Canada as well as Spokane, Washington. I believe I have also identified the border between Canada and the United States.
Overall, the last two weeks have been very eventful, providing me with contacts, and helping to plan for a hopeful trip to this region to see these sites for myself.