Blog Post

TECNHO-TRAVELS: REDLINING CALIFORNIA

"Redlining California," a project started by Richard Marciano at the
San Diego Supercomputing Center, was previewed at HASTAC's very first
gathering in 2003 or 2004. By crunching demographic statistics,
guidelines offered by the Federal housing commission back to the 1930s,
and global positioning systems, Marciana showed how early policies of
discrimination map onto continuing segregation, economic disparity, and
poverty in southern California, with implications for the whole
country.

 

Come to HASTAC II, TECHNO-TRAVELS, to see how far this remarkable project, now
co-directed by Marciano and David Theo Goldberg, Director of UCHRI and
HASTAC co-founder, has progressed and to see what a true collaboration
across the humanities, social sciences, and computational sciences can
yield. Their maps of then-and-now, prejudice in motion and poverty
locked-down, will shock you and break your heart. 

 

For the full PDF of the article "Performing History on a Humanities Grid," with full-color maps, go to: http://www.uchri.org/page-home.php?page_id=1288&cat_id=1

 

Here's an excerpt:

Almost everyone knows the term ?redlining??the practice of denying
loans or insurance to people based on the neighborhood they live in. Most
people have come to believe that redlining stemmed only from individual
bias, when in fact it was a Federal program of residential planning begun in the 1930s
that produced neighborhood-level ?redlined maps? which remained in use for almost four
decades.
For other than a few well-researched cities, the bulk of the collection of once-confi-
dential redlining files from the Federal Home Owners? Loan Corporation has remained
invisible, tucked away on the shelves of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and
effectively out of reach for all but a few specialists?preventing wider understanding of
this chapter of our nation?s history.
Now, a unique collaboration among computer scientists at the San Diego
Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego, and historians, social scientists, and
others at UC Irvine and other campuses is bringing California?s history of redlining to
life, placing this collection online in digital form for eight California cities.
?Bringing this historical collection into the Information Age will dramatically broaden
access,? said Richard Marciano, director of SDSC?s Sustainable Archives and Library
Technologies Lab, who initiated the project. ?Not only professional historians but also
students, community groups, and planning agencies will easily be able to explore this
little-known information.?
The collection includes Federal redlining maps along with other documents from the
1930s and 40s such as interviews, financial and banking documents, and detailed city
surveys from the National Archives, which Marciano and SDSC digital preservation
specialist Chien-Yi Hou have painstakingly assembled and brought into digital form.
The project, the Testbed for the Redlining Archives of California?s Exclusionary Spaces
(T-RACES), will be one of the first to make use of a new ?humanities grid.? The HASS
(Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences) Grid, a cyberinfrastructure initiative organized
by the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) and partners,
is bringing the benefits of advanced information technologies normally found only in
science and engineering to these new communities across all ten University of California
campuses.
The HASS Grid will store and make available the redlining collection using SDSC-
developed data grid infrastructure that provides a central catalog to manage the pres-
ervation information for each city?s electronic file of neighborhoods. In addition, the
infrastructure will make the redlining documents accessible alongside a rich array of
relevant information drawn from census tract data, municipal ordinances, and insurance
protocols, allowing researchers to ask broader questions about the context, origins, and
legacy of redlining.
?The importance of the HASS Grid is that for the first time it will give these com-
munities a practical path to large, dynamic digital archives for their research, opening up
entirely new avenues of investigation for these fields,? said David Goldberg, director of
UCHRI and a professor of Comparative Literature and Criminology, Law and Society at
UC Irvine. ?We?re demonstrating the creative and innovative work that becomes possible
at the interface of HASS content and high-end digital technology?for example, in the
redlining project nothing like these overlapping data exist on the history of urban segre-
gation for California cities.?
Beyond simple access to information, the HASS Grid will also put a range of ad-
vanced data grid technologies at researchers? fingertips, helping them ask new questions
and ?connect the dots,? collaborate, publish results online, and preserve collections for
long-term use.

 

[Thanks to photograph Miguel Pereira, who posted photographs from his powerful Madrid exhibition "Think Twice" on Flickr. Click on the image for full documentation.]

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