Summer's Yield Projects from the Summer Graduate Fellowship in Digital Humanities

Molly Reed

Molly Reed, a Ph.D. candidate in Cornell's History Program, participated in the Summer Graduate Fellowship in Digital Humanities in 2015. Throughout the course of the fellowship Reed developed the seeds of Communal Currents, a website documenting and presenting Reed's research using digital humanities tools and concepts.

Project Title: Communal Currents

Project Statement:

My scholarly work focuses on United States communal history. During the first half of the nineteenth century, social reformers launched hundreds of communal settlements in the United States. The decade of the 1840s alone saw the emergence of Oneida, Hopedale, Fruitlands, Icarian communities, Brook Farm and other Fourierist Phalanxes, among many others. These groups were interconnected through their commitment to movements for abolition, temperance, and women’s rights, through trade relations and skill sharing, and through shared members.Communal Currents, a project initially conceived during and supported by the Summer Graduate Fellowship in Digital Humanities, explores the interconnected landscape of nineteenth-century communal settlements through interactive maps.

The Digital Humanities fellowship program at Cornell’s library introduced me to methods and theories of working with and visualizing data. This program gave me tools to evaluate the strengths and limitations of various visualization tools and techniques, and to carefully consider questions about visual learning and communication in developing my project.

By visualizing human and intellectual connections between communities this project helps to answer questions such as: In what ways did communal settlements facilitate new forms of interaction and mobility? How did contemporaneous communities influence one another in terms of ideology, social organization, and subsistence practices? How did members define community borders and understand processes of cohesion? Communal Currents illustrates the culture of connectivity in nineteenth-century communities, explores spatial patterns of community formation, and engages with communities as porous and flexible sites of comings and goings, rather than isolated settlements.