Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Maura A. Smale

Subject Categories

Digital Humanities


Geospatial Data, Textual Evidence, Photographic Evidence, American West, Landscape, Memory, Travel, Data Collection


Crossing the Great Divide has been a working project for over two years. The project was initially inspired by the maps drawn and paths traversed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark 1804-1806. From June to August of 2015 a few travelers and myself followed their historic journey and traversed the landscapes of the American frontier on bicycle. We chose this mode of travel as it put us into a direct intimate relationship with the landscape and thus a more sympathetic connection to the histories that preceded us. Leaving from Clark’s survey point of Indian Boundary Line on the shore of Lake Michigan, we ended at their last campsite at Cape Disappointment on the Pacific coast of Washington. As we slowly moved through these spaces we cultivated an archive of information about this journey. We collected quantitative geospatial weather and elevation data using Nicholas Felton's Reporter app. We compiled qualitative data: photos, diary entries, and historical stories about the places we moved through. I will use a praxis-based model of Digital Humanities investigation to interrogate my archives of data. This project will consider the parameters of each type of data collected and ask the question: what is made apparent in this data and what remains hidden? By closely reading quantitative and qualitative data side-by-side, I will explore how these forms of information support each other in order to create a more complex Digital Humanities argument. This project is also a step into the creative possibilities of firsthand participatory research that will shape new modes of discussion around history, humanities, art and the digital world.

The final product of this thesis will be in the form of a website. By creating this comparative analysis around humanities data forms in an open digital space, I will allow the model of my argument to design the visual information of my publication. With an open book design, other humanities scholars will be able to access the data in my thesis and utilize its properties to build unique projects of their own.