J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Digital Resources from Mount Vernon

Here are some digital goodies from the George Washington National Library at Mount Vernon, which I visited last year for a symposium.

Podcasts: The Conversations from the Washington’s Library podcast usually features a one-on-one chat between the library’s founding director, Douglas Bradburn, and a historian or author who is speaking or doing research at the site.

These are in-depth interviews, most lasting about an hour. Bradburn asks about people’s latest book and ongoing research from the perspective of a fellow historian with an excellent overview of research being done in the field. He often gets into a topic few history podcasts cover: his guests’ careers in and out of academia. Some of the shows are recorded more clearly than others; a couple of times I’ve given up on listening in the car because I couldn’t make out both sides of the conversation.

After a few months’ hiatus, the podcast has just returned with a conversation with Gordon Wood, one of the most influential early American historians of his generation. (During that break, Bradburn became the head of Mount Vernon overall, so he was keeping busy.)

Interactive Map: Washington’s World is one of the many digital resources that Joseph Stoltz oversees for Mount Vernon, a map tracing all of George Washington’s travels. This map shows his known location at every point in his life, pinned with G.I.S. onto a modern map of North America.

We can thus follow Washington’s various journeys, as far west as Point Pleasant on the Ohio River (1770) and as far east as Barbados (1751). One can zoom in to the neighborhood level or out to see the whole scope of his movements. Major events have descriptive explanations and links to Mount Vernon’s growing digital encyclopedia of Washington’s life.

Because the sites are mapped onto a modern map, it’s easy to approximate Washington’s routes along today’s roads. In the case of Boston, however, the city’s modern shoreline isn’t the shoreline that Washington knew and struggled with. Still, it’s interesting to see locations pegged to all three of his visits to the city: in 1756 as a young colonial officer, in 1776 as a victorious besieger, and in 1789 as the elected President.

Lectures: Finally, I just learned that the talk I went to Mount Vernon to deliver can now be watched on C-Span’s American History TV site. It’s called “George Washington’s Cambridge Headquarters.”

The theme of that symposium was “George Washington Slept Here,” and all the talks explored different places where we know Washington spent time. The speakers brought a wide range of perspectives, focusing variously on archeology, farming, politics, surveying, war, and so on. Other lectures recorded by C-Span are:
The digital and physical resources at Mount Vernon will no doubt continue to grow.

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