Trevorton, by Tim Mayers
Throughout the process of creating my final artifact, my project changed a lot. At the beginning, my research question was, “How have the mining towns shaped the personal history of people within them, and what about them makes the citizens stay for generations?” I originally wanted to address this question through interviewing and making a profile on a subject from a mining town and articulating how their specific family history paralleled the history of the town in which they reside and the history of the coal industry. The digital medium with which I intended on accomplishing this was an Omeka exhibit similar to the ones we each made in early February. However, I was never dead set on this medium, and quickly realized that by using this method I would not be able to add color to the town in the manner I would have hoped. My final rearticulated research question was, “How do the people and places within Trevorton add color to it to make Trevorton a Region?” This new research question I think shifted the focus of my project from the effect of the town on the individual, to the effect of the individual on the town. I made this shift because I think it better answered the course question, “What is a region?” because this way I would be able to illustrate the different parts of the town and what gave the town its color that only people from the inside could see, whereas people looking from the outside would only see a dilapidated town.
When I changed my research question, I also changed my medium. I decided to use Neatline instead of a mainly textual Omeka Exhibit for multiple reasons. First I think that with Neatline I was able to relate my research to the town better since it was literally splayed out on a map of Trevorton. I also like the interactive facet of Neatline. I think that using Omeka, I would have ended up with a very two-dimensional result, whereas using Neatline and a dynamic Google Earth view, offered a final product that was much more alive. I think this relates back to seeing Trevorton as an alive vibrant community, and not a run down town, and Neatline obviously paid more respect to that. Although I shifted most of my project’s focus, I did decide to keep the focus on Trevorton and I decided to keep the interview feature. I did this because again I wanted to paint Trevorton as a community with personality and activity, and I think that if I shifted my focus to the entire coal region I would have lost that personal touch to it, and keeping the interview added another personal feature to the end result as well. One major issue that I came across when working was finding information on the history of Trevorton. Since it is an incredibly small town with a population of only an estimated 1,800 people, there has not been a substantial effort to compile and publish research on it. However, I found that just because I couldn’t find information with Google searches, that didn’t mean that the information wasn’t out there. I found that if I wanted information I had to seek out people who were involved with Trevorton, who had done research themselves and had not published it online. I was able to do this with my interview with Vince, who was able to offer insight on his own business and the coal history in Mt. Carmel and Trevorton. I also was able to get WPA scans about Trevorton with Prof. Faull’s help from Cindy Inkrote at the Northumberland Country Historical Society. Most likely my most beneficial resource however, was the Trevorton Heritage Society. I stumbled upon their Facebook page through Google searches for Trevorton. I found a nameless email and after exchanging a few emails and talking about what I was trying to accomplish, I was able to ask a representative of theirs, Elizabeth Schwartz, 15-20 questions via email and she typed up her answers and sent them back to me. Unfortunately due to time constraints for the both of us, we were not able to set up a meeting time, but what I did gather from our exchanges was very helpful for my project. Another one of my most valuable resources again came from the Trevorton Heritage Society, which was their digital archives. Ever since they started in 2013, they have been compiling photographs, articles, documents, memorabilia, etc. throughout history from the people of Trevorton. They have published some of this database on Facebook for the public’s use, and I utilized it to add personality to my Neatline depiction of Trevorton. I poured through what they had published and did my best to date each photo and locate where it was taken and then I would add it to my Neatline map of Trevorton, bringing the map to life. Another main issue I encountered in working on my project was my approach to interviewing Vince. Not so much the ethics of my interview, because I was very focused on letting him telling his story and not pushing anything out of him, but rather how I would integrate the interview into my Neatline map. I considered making the interview into a video, editing the video, and publishing it into my Neatline, but I figured that would focus too much on Vince. Since Vince does live in Trevorton, but works there and is somewhat involved with the community, I thought that focusing too much on my profile of him would take away from what I was trying to communicate about Trevorton. I solved this problem by recording my interview as just an audio file, which can be accessed through my Neatline map, but first composing a short writing of my interview with him. I tried to take on almost a journalistic style in this writing, taking every thing that he said and making a piece that combined his personality, what he literally said, and my own analytic or creative twist to it. Overall, I think that my final project was successful in achieving my research question and what I had set out to communicate about Trevorton as a vibrant and tight-knit community.