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Pathseeker: The Humanities Atlas of the Central Region

Ohio University’s Central Region Humanities Center is developing Pathseeker: The Humanities Atlas of the Central Region, an online, hypermedia research tool for use by scholars and the general public to search, discover, and secure humanities primary source materials and scholarship on the NEH-designated Central Region: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Pathseeker is a response to the call by the NEH for humanities scholars to think anew about regional American culture and to find new ways of making that scholarship meaningful to the public for both formal education and lifelong learning. Pathseeker will leverage digital technologies, especially a Geographic Information S ystem (GIS) and the World Wide Web, for the development and delivery of three inter-related references: hypertextual maps, community profiles, and virtual tours. Visually dynamic GIS mapping technology constitutes the heart of Pathseeker by linking bibliographic references, biographical and architectural details, historical accounts of events and performances, oral histories, linguistic variations, and other primary data of humanities research to geospacial coordinates. Using an interface designed for sc holarly humanities inquiry, the researcher can create custom maps revealing new relationships of time, space, and cultural experience in our region.

For the lay public, Pathseeker provides a more streamlined interface for access to community profiles and interactive cybertours of regional routes--contemporary and historical, by land, water, and rail. The cybertours and community profiles, produced from digitized primary source materials and born-digital materials, serve tourist and other informa l educational needs. Like the WPA American Guide Series of the 1930s and 1940s, Pathseeker’s community profiles also provide additional primary materials for scholars. For the elementary or high school student, lesson materials keyed to state education standards provide age-appropriate explorations as well as models on which teachers can base additional activities. The GIS data, community profiles, and cybertours will be integrated and accessed via a place-based interface design to support users’ investi gation of regional humanities questions and to tell many stories about local and regional experience. The development and preliminary implementation of Pathseeker will serve as a demonstration project for other regional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in conjunction with the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI).

The first phase of the project involves the design, development, and implementation of five Pathseeker components and the refinement of an editorial and administrative struc ture on which remaining modules will be built. During this phase, we aim to (1) development of GIS data on a thematic domain for Regional Literary Culture, in which we map biographical and bibliographical details of authors, publishers, patrons, texts, and other details of literary and publishing history; (2) development of GIS data on a thematic domain for Regional Mining Experience, in which we map locations, companies, technical innovations, personnel, unions, and other details of industrial history; (3 ) GIS mapping of institutions, sites, and archives collected by the CRHC Inventory Task force; (4) piloting of community profiles; and (5) production of two multimedia cybertours along regional legs of (a) the Dixie Highway and (b) the National Road.


Principal Investigators:
  • Joseph W. Slade (a lso co-PI of the Central Region Humanities Center Planning Project), will act as co-PI of Pathseeker, and will serve as Pathseeker’s Executive Producer. Dr. Slade specializes in telecommunications and culture. He has spent the last two dozen years exploring channels of dissemination for the humanities.

  • Judith Yaross Lee (also co-PI of the Central Region Humanities Center Planning Project), will act as co-PI of Pathseeker and its Editor-in-Chief. Dr. Lee is a specialist in popular culture , especially regional literary humor and electronic rhetoric. She has broad editorial and interdisciplinary research experience in American studies.

  • Ann Kovalchick, Director of Ohio University’s Center for Innovations in Technology for Learning (CITL), will act as co-PI and Technical Coordinator of Pathseeker, and chair the Technical Committee that will design and develop the electronic user interface. Dr. Kovalchick specializes in the development and delivery of educational media in film and electronic formats.

  • Other Project Staff

  • Sandra Sleight-Brennan will be Pathseeker’s Multimedia Producer. Sleight-Brennan is an Assistant Professor of Telecommunications at Ohio University and an award-winning producer of radio and video programs. Assisted by undergraduate and graduate students, she will be responsible for producing Pathseeker’s cybertours and for developing other digital multimedia for linkage into Pathseeker’s GIS. She will also consult on community-based history, especially classroom projects.

  • Shruti Mehta will be Pathseeker’s System Engineer. With five years’ experience in system administration in Unix, Solaris, and other environments, Ms. Mehta holds 9 training certificates in system and network administration, 7 certificates in programming, and 3 in database programming.

  • Thomas Reid, Director of Ohio University’s Communi cation Network Services (CNS) since 1994, will oversee Pathseeker’s implementation on the CNS Advanced Web Cluster and the Oracle environment.

  • Ivan Chang, a Web Analyst/Programmer with particular expertise in search engines, will provide programming for Pathseeker at the Ohio University development site.

  • J. B. Hoy, senior GIS Specialist at Ohio University’s Institute for Local Government and Rural Administration (ILGARD), will provide GIS support at Ohio University to Pathfinder’s st aff and committees.

  • Marilyn J. Atlas, Associate Professor of English at Ohio University, will be one of the two managing editors of the Regional Literature Domain, with responsibility for Midwestern Literature. Dr. Atlas is a past president of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature.

  • Consultants

  • Danny Miller, Professor of English at the University of N orthern Kentucky, will be one of two managing editors for the Regional Literature Domain, handling Appalachian literature, his specialty.

  • Russell M. Magnaghi, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Upper Peninsula Studies at Northern Michigan University, will be one of the two managing editors of the Mining Experience Domain, with responsibility for northern areas.

  • Lynda Ann Ewen, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Ge nder in Appalachia at Marshall University, is president of the Appalachian Studies Association. She will be managing editor for the southern half of the Mining Experience Domain.

  • David Rudy is Dean of the Institute for Regional Analysis and Public Policy at Morehead State University, publisher of the Atlas of Appalachia. He will serve on the Policy Committee and consult on community outreach in Kentucky and West Virginia.

  • Steven Parkansky, Geography and Cartography Consulta nt, is Assistant Professor of Geography at Morehead State University, and the Cartographic Editor of the Atlas of Appalachia. Dr. Parkansky will serve on the Editorial Committee and consult on development of GIS and thematic maps for Pathseeker.

  • Michael Sam Cronk is an educational media producer with regional expertise preparing humanities materials to meet state curricular standards for K-12 students. He will bring extensive experience in Internet regional humanities programming to the Ed itorial Committee.

  • ILGARD, Ohio University’s Institute for Local Government and Rural Administration, will provide GIS training for Pathfinder’s staff and develop materials for an on-site training session for communities piloting the website profiles.

  • Partners

  • The Polis Center is a self-supporting 45-person multidisciplinary urban research center at Indiana Univers ity-Purdue University at Indianapolis. The staff of Indianapolis’s Polis Center includes 15 professionals skilled in the whole range of GIS work-cadastre, planimetrics, database development, data conversion, programming, and the like.

  • David Jackson Bodenhamer, Professor of History at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, is Director of the Polis Center. Dr. Bodenhamer will serve on Pathseeker’s Policy Committee.

  • System architecture desig ned by Polis will enable Pathseeker staff to focus on content development, production, and delivery. The Polis Center will thus enhance the local expertise provided by ILGARD to support Pathseeker’s development site at Ohio University. ILGARD, with a mission to transfer capacity from Ohio University communities, has provided clients in Southeastern Ohio with GIS analysis, mapping, training, and other services for twenty years. In collaboration with specialists from OHIO’s Computer Network Services, the CITL, and ILGARD, the Polis Center will work out the technical specifications needed to make Pathseeker a reality that Ohio University can sustain over the long term.

  • Partners

    The Central Region Humanities Center (CRHC) at Ohio University.The CRHC has established networks of nearly 400 scholars in the states of Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan. The Center w ill house the University’s graduate program in American Culture and Communication. The Center will provide the databases and some of the staff and facilities for the Atlas.

    The Center for Innovation in Technology for Learning (CITL) at Ohio University.CITL will provide much of the technical expertise for initiating the Humanities Atlas, drawing on Ohio University’s servers and connections. It will maintain Pathseeker’s Development Site.

    The Polis Center of Indiana University-Purdue U niversity at Indianapolis.The Polis Center will serve as technical advisor and, as subcontractor, will manage our GIS data entry and management. Their expertise in GIS training includes a module specifically on historical applications of GIS.

    The Institute for Regional Analysis and Public Policy (IRAPP) at Morehead State University in Kentucky.IRAPP has agreed to share its already extensive GIS data compiled for the Atlas of Appalachia. IRAPP’s interests shade toward the social sciences, but the scholars working there are excited about enriching their spatial approach with the cultural and humanistic themes and subjects that Pathseeker will share with them.

    OhioLINK is a statewide, State of Ohio funded library and information network linking more than seventy universities, colleges, technical and community colleges, and the State Library of Ohio. OhioLINK centrally provides access to over 60 databases of full-text electronic journals and bibliographic citations. As of Spring 2001, more than 2.5 Terabytes of information are managed on OhioLINK computers and are available to the approximately 600,000 faculty, staff, and students who use our information systems.

    The Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development (ILGARD) at Ohio University. ILGARD will further leverage IRAPP’s collaboration by extending GIS mapping into the rest of Ohio, and by working with similar agencies in Indiana and Michigan to secure maps of those areas.

    Center for Upper Peninsula Studies at Northern Michigan University.The Center is mapping mines, historical aspects of the Upper Peninsula, and regional Native American sites. The Center has a gateway (see to Michigan history projects on old French forts, the iron industry, and so on.

    Ohio Historical Society/State Historic Preservation Office.This office is contributing GIS maps of 120,000 sites in the state of Ohio via MAP-IT interface.

    Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office.This office is contributing its GIS maps via MAP-IT interface.


    As Members of Technical CommitteeCharles Bauer, Digital Librarian, OhioLINK.
    Karen Frederickson, Director, Community Analysis Group, The Polis Center.
    Todd Tucky, Computer Systems Manager, Ohio Historic Preservation Office.

    As Membe rs of Editorial CommitteeDavid Pollack, Director, Kentucky Archaeological Survey and Archaeological Coordinator, Kentucky Heritage Council.

    Members of Policy CommitteeGale Petersen, Executive Director, Ohio Humanities Council
    Rick Knupfer, Executive Director, Michigan Humanities Council
    David Bodenhamer, Director, The Polis Center
    Donna DeBlasio, Associate Professor of History, Youngstown State University, specialist in public history and historic preservation.
    Mike Finney, A ssociate Director of Information Technology and Data Services, ILGARD
    Carole Summers, Heritage Tourism Director, Travel Kentucky