January 25th Notes: Bobby Allen and Pam Lach

Bobby Allen & ‘Going to the Show’

Bobby started out with a live demo of ‘Going to the Show’, a project about movie-going in rural North Carolina.  He distinguished his interest in movie going from studies of the films themselves with the term ‘cinema studies’.  ‘Going to the Show’ uses detailed Sanborn maps, stitched together via photoshop, to locate cinemas in time and space.  Bobby talked about how the field of cinema studies had been heavily influenced by the well-documented experiences of urban movie-goers (especially in Manhattan), and how the rural experience of cinema was perhaps even more central to the experience of ‘downtowns’ in the South.

‘Going to the Show’ was a success and Bobby looked for ways to expand the reach of the work he’d done.  This expansion involved building an easy-to-use toolkit for other organizations to use the historical maps his team had assembled to illustrate other histories about North Carolina.  This effort evolved into Main Street Carolina.

Pam Lach & ‘Main Street Carolina’

Pam discussed the Main Street Carolina platform and walked us through both the frontend of existing projects and the easy-to-use backend.  She demoed several projects still in beta format and showed how organizations can easily create their own content, situate it on a map, and add relevant metadata.  Pam and Bobby discussed the challenges that cultural organizations face in devoting resources to digital projects and noted that student involvement with these projects seems to be a way around the organizations’ constraints.


Discussion revolved around several themes including this works’ relationship to traditional historical scholarship, the challenges facing non-tenured faculty seeking to produce digital work, and the possibility of academic publication of digital works.

Additional Resources

  • Going to the Show, Bobby Allen’s ground-breaking project on cinema-going in North Carolina
  • Main Street Carolina, the open-source platform that is enabling cultural institutions and researchers to add their own content to the Historical Maps and other resources Bobby and his team have assembled
  • Virtual Cities, Digital Histories – the international symposium that Bobby and Pam held in December 2010.  The Recordings section is an excellent resource, containing both links to participants’ projects and recordings of their virtual presentations and the surrounding chat feeds.  Bobby noted that they were able to hold this event for about $1000 (and heroic efforts of coordination by Pam…).  The potential for digital technologies to bring together disparate scholars producing born-digital work is immense.

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