NSU professors, students work to map history

Mapping Tahlequah History co-director Dr. John McIntosh, left, and Shannon Dolph, Northeastern State University geography student, work on the project's website.

Northeastern State University professors and students are working to put Tahlequah's history on the map digitally.

The Mapping Tahlequah History project will trace the history of sites in Tahlequah and the region.

Led by Dr. Farina King and Dr. John McIntosh, the project is in its initial phase, which is focused on organizing the tasks to be accomplished. Grant funding is also being sought.

"Currently, it's a lot of volunteer time," said King. "This is an interdisciplinary collaboration designed to engage NSU students, faculty, and community members in place-based learning and humanities research."

King is on the faculty of the Department of History and is an affiliate of the Cherokee and Indigenous Studies Department. She is also the founding director of the NSU Center for Indigenous Community Engagement, and specializes in Native American and Indigenous Studies and American history.

McIntosh is a faculty member of the Department of Geography and Political Science. He is a broadly trained human geographer with expertise in geographic information systems.

Other participants include: Justin McBride, Department of Language and Literature; Jeffrey Maloney, Department Language and Literature and director of the ESL academy; Tiffany Hardbarger, Department of Cherokee and Indigenous Studies.

Mapping Tahlequah History will provide a resource for immersive learning in humanities courses, such as introductory history, human geography, linguistics, and Cherokee studies.

"It will be a valuable resource for the university community, local organizations and the general public by making local historical information more accessible," said King. "Mapping Tahlequah History enables students and learners to reflect on and to express their own sense of American collective identities and communities, as they practice fundamental skills and approaches to historical inquiry, historical perspectives, and interpretations."

The project began in 2018 as an unfunded class workspace that focused on mapping local history. In 2019, the NSU Center for Teaching and Learning awarded King and McIntosh two grants, which provided resources to develop the interactive map and website.

The seed funding also allowed for hiring a student research assistant for a semester, piloting the project, and covering expenses for class excursions to some featured historic sites. Among the sites to be included are: John Hair Cultural Center and Museum, Cherokee Heritage Center, Owen School, Hunter's Home, John Ross Museum and John Ross Cemetery, historic downtown Tahlequah, NSU Jazz Lab, Cherokee National History Museum, Cherokee National Prison Museum, and the Tahlequah History Trail.

"By visiting these sites, the students will immerse themselves and experience reading places. They will make direct connections to living history and how to understand change over time in their own area, while contextualizing local histories and cultures with broader dynamics of humanities," said King.

The project will also rely heavily on site directors or staff, community members, and local references, such as the Tahlequah Daily Press and its predecessors.

"Our goals and desired outcomes for this project include: strengthening ties between NSU, tribal nations, and local experts on the histories and cultures of Tahlequah and Green Country; increasing opportunities for NSU students to learn humanities in an immersive environment and to contribute original research for public access; and developing more resources available to support our student and faculty scholarship relating to the history and heritage of Tahlequah," said King.

The website, mappingtahlequahhistory.org, is currently live, but only three sites are mapped: Franklin's Castle, Master's Hardware building, and Seminary Hall. The organizers are seeking local input, and will have ways to submit photos, videos, links to historic documents, descriptions of sites, and more.

The directors plan to host university-wide workshops at least twice per academic year to introduce and demonstrate how to use and contribute to the Mapping Tahlequah History interactive map and website.

Get involved

To contact the directors, email Farina King at king64@nsuok.edu or John McIntosh at mcinto06@nsuok.edu.

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