April 15-18, 2009
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Demonstrations: Description

A Literary Map for the Future: Integrating Technology, History, and Culture

Steven Herb, Pennsylvania State University, USA
Alan Jalowitz, Pennsylvania State University, USA
Jenny Litz, Penn State University Libraries, USA

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary and Cultural Heritage Map of Pennsylvania project provides a geographic portal to the rich background of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The idea of a literary map has a long history in the United States. A graphic representation of a state's (or the nation's) civic pride has been a stand-by for English teachers for decades. But in a time when globalization and technology have become watchwords in many aspects of culture, the single paper page Literary Map has become a quaint artifact, frequently little more than a simple poster for an English teacher's classroom or a product for raising funds for a humanities council. With the advent of numerous technological ways to experience the best the world has to offer, one risk to learners of all levels has been the relative difficulty of keeping in touch with one's own local literary and cultural history. That same risk, however, has provided us the impetus to unify technology with locality in the form of the literary map, making the "local" every bit as compelling as the "exotic."

Like the printed literary maps of the past, it brings attention to the writers who have been connected to Pennsylvania through birth, education, contribution, occupation, or death. Unlike the maps of the past, however, the Literary and Cultural Heritage Map provides much more information about these authors than just the typical birthdates and places. Over the past eight years, our staff and outside writers from the larger academic community have written nearly a thousand biographies and sketches about those figures. Furthermore, we have broadened our scope from just various types of writers to include artists, musicians, politicians, military figures, athletes, and many others. Moreover, we have created dozens of feature articles on inventions, industries, amusement parks, sporting venues, geography, and other places and objects from Pennsylvania's past. The Map as a whole contains material of a universally interesting nature as well as biographies and/or features for every one of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.

The Literary and Cultural Heritage Map currently utilizes the Flash software package to bring a sense of dynamism to its visual presentation. It also involves the digitized collections housed by the Pennsylvania State University with county and location specific options for viewers throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. We also have a number of audio and visual presentations accessible through the site such that users can not only read about poets and authors, but hear and see their work.

Our web presence in the form of the map, as well as our other programs, has allowed the Pennsylvania Center for the Book to fulfill its mission to study, honor, celebrate, and promote books, reading, libraries, and literacy to the citizens and residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Demonstration: Demonstrations 2 [Close Up]

Keywords: map, literature, biography, Flash, digital, history