What topic did you settle on?
I settled on the topic of John Bigelow and his relationship with abolitionists through correspondence. There is a significant list of abolitionist names in the metadata, including fellow Union College alumni and close friend of Harriet Tubman, William Seward, as well as underground railroad station master, James W. Brooks. While John Bigelow may not have a significant list of documented abolitionist work himself, a close connection to the abolitionist movement can be found through the list of his correspondence.
What is your data?
My data is the list of abolitionist names and letters shared between them and John Bigelow. I will use this list of data to create a network map drawing out the relationships between John and the abolitionists as well as overlapping relationships between abolitionists in which John Bigelow is the common denominator.
What considerations are you making as you select your data sets?
As I make my data sets I am considering the fact that many of the letters sent between John and the abolitionists may not actually include abolitionist information and anti-slavery efforts within the subject of the correspondence. However, the simple relationship between John Bigelow and said abolitionists, in my opinion, is enough to flag it as significant data. Abolition was a hot topic in the 19th century and the fact that John Bigelow had so many relationships with so many abolitionists is enough to flag the abolitionist network as significant within the overall metadata of the Bigelow correspondence papers.
What is your data and your visualizations telling you at this point?
My data and visualization is telling me that this network is extensive and goes beyond the common denominator of John Bigelow. Some of the abolitionists Bigelow was in correspondence with have their own documented correspondence outside of the Bigelow papers on other databases.
My visualization tells me a time period and location of these letters as well, which happen to line up with the dawn of the Civil War.
What opportunities and challenges are you facing as you wrap up your research?
One challenge I am facing is actually collecting names. Something I found through my research is that many abolitionists wrote under pseudonyms to hide their identities. Additionally, some of the names I look up may not be flagged as abolitionists because of the controversial take at the time.