Featured Abstract: Feb. 20

Each Monday and Thursday, an abstract from one of the symposium participants will be posted to facilitate discussion.  We welcome your comments!

Featured Abstract: “What is the Thing that Changes?: Space and Time through the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries”

Douglas Knox, Newberry Library

One would think that modeling historical administrative boundaries would be a straightforward matter, relatively free of the complications of more fuzzy phenomena in the humanities. In fact, however, the precision of modeling tools casts the inherent difficulties of modeling administrative change over time and space in sharp relief. This presentation will draw on examples from the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, an NEH-funded project of the Newberry Library completed in 2010, which documents every change in county boundaries in what is now the United States from colonial times through the year 2000. In addition to reviewing fundamental data modeling decisions of the project, the presentation will explore interesting edge cases, connections and similarities to other kinds of data, implicit models, and alternative ways of approaching the question of what are the objects of interest that we imagine persisting through changes over time.

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