Digital History

Along with traditional archival research, I use digital humanities tools to unlock the stories in non-narrative sources.

I’m currently a postgraduate research associate with Princeton’s Center for Digital Humanities, where I’m the primary investigator for They Came on Waves of Ink: Northwest Maritime Trade at the Dawn of American Settlement, 1851–61. We’re encoding, mapping, and analyzing U.S. Customs data from the Puget Sound Customs District’s first decade, contained in a handwritten ledger held by the National Archives branch in Seattle. In 1851, the United States created a customs district covering Puget Sound, the inland sea at the heart of the Pacific Northwest, as part of the nation’s territorial expansion to the Pacific Coast. The ledger’s 150 pages are rich with data: Customs officials recorded the dates a vessel arrived and departed Puget Sound, along with its name, nationality, tonnage, type, place built, registration, inbound and outbound ports, captain, crew, cargo, and passengers. The ledger covers the district’s first decade, showing how maritime connections supported American settlement of indigenous territory and how regional events—including the 1855–56 Puget Sound Indian War, the 1858 Fraser River gold rush, and the 1859 San Juan Islands boundary dispute—shaped an emerging settler society. Mapping maritime trade networks in the Pacific Northwest and northern Pacific Ocean during this period will let us see how early American settlers imagined commercial connections across geographic space and how they understood their port cities in relation to regional and global places. Datasets related to this project will be available in my GitHub repositories by the middle of 2019.

As part of my dissertation research, I used GIS to map historical maritime trade networks in the Pacific Northwest. I also created several original datasets. One dataset, drawn from U.S. Census occupational data, shows how Washington Territory had higher per capita employment in maritime industries, like boatbuilding or fishing, than Oregon or California. Another dataset, built from City of Seattle and Port of Seattle archival documents, provides a detailed view of Seattle’s maritime commercial connections in the early twentieth century. Please contact me to access these datasets.