Digital Farmington: The Concept and Development

In September, 2014, Prof. Stan Kurkovsky sent this message to other professors at Central Connecticut State University:

“The CCSU Computer Science department regularly offers senior software engineering courses in which student teams participate in design and development of software projects of various sizes and complexity. Usually, the best projects come from working with local non-profits or campus departments and organizations, rather than letting students work on projects that they would make up just for the purposes of this course. In case if your department, any of your faculty, or perhaps a local non-profit that you may have a connection with, might have some software development needs, I will be glad to discuss how CS majors in our software engineering classes could help.”

Prof. Katherine Hermes in the History Department responded. She wanted to collaborate with Lisa Johnson, director of the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Connecticut, to create a website modeled after “Digital Harlem,” which allowed site visitors to use maps and analytical categories to see change over time with respect to events plotted on the map. Dr. Hermes and Ms. Johnson met with Dr. Kurkovsky and his students to discuss the project. They examined various map programs, including MapScholar, and three teams were assigned to develop “Digital Farmington.”

The plan was that once “Digital Farmington” was created, Dr. Hermes’ class on historical methods, History 301: The Historical Imagination, could then develop the points of interest and analytical categories for the map and share their research on Farmington with the public. In Spring, 2015, Dr. Hermes began teaching her first “Digital Farmington” class.

The three teams came up with several different designs, each excellent in its own way. Only one design could be chosen, however, so Lisa Johnson held a focus group event at the Stanley-Whitman House. One prototype, developed by Kevin Gregory, Marianella Rydzewski, and Alex Shorthouse, used a MapScholar-type interface and Google Maps to create an interactive display. Another team was composed of undergraduates, who had thoughtful ideas about security issues. David Benoit, Eric Heidelmark, Jon Montwell, and Aaron Zamojski gave us ideas about how to administer our site safely. The winning model, though, was created by Sweta Mishra, Trung Phung, and Chad Tower, which will be unveiled at the “Making History: a CSU Conference” to be held at Southern Connecticut State University on March 27, 2015. That map will be linked to the blog in the coming weeks.

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Blog posts will be written by students in the History 301: Historical Imagination class as they uncover interesting historical events in Farmington, CT. For Spring, 2015, students are working on Colonial Farmington. In the summer, new students will work on Antebellum Farmington, and in the Fall, 2015, on Gilded Age Farmington. This project will continue to gather research on Farmington’s history, ranging from the local to the transoceanic. We’ll go as far as it takes us!