This semester I have realized the opportunity that I have here at SIF to do some meaningful and interesting research. The projects I have taken on thus far are Civil Rights Atlas, LGBTQ landmarks, and sites from the 1996 Olympics.

The 1996 Olympics layer is definitely the easiest, or at least the least time consuming of the three projects. The goal with this layer is to show how each Olympic facility from the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games has “changed,” or been maintained over time. For example, I learned that Georgia State’s Sports Arena served as the badminton facility during the Olympics. Fortunately, this data is already compiled in multiple places so getting this layer up on ATLmaps will not be hard.

The LGBTQ landmarks layer is interesting because I thought of it in the spur of the moment at a content meeting, and surprisingly this layer has a lot more data than I thought it would. Brennan put me into contact with Hannah Givens of University of West Georgia. Ms. Givens was able to provide me with a list of bars and clubs in Atlanta that serve some historical significance to the Gay community and its struggle for equality. The main challenges with this project is trying to find the exact locations of some of the bars or clubs that are not here anymore. Because of the secrecy of some of these locations, it makes researching and searching for them even harder. This layer is culturally relevant as Atlanta becomes more and more of an ally for the LGBTQ community.

The layer that I am currently the most invested in is the Civil Rights Atlas layer. This is a layer that is compiled of landmarks that serve a significance to the Black community and their struggle for civil rights. What interests me the most about this project is the fact that a lot of the landmarks are no longer there, and the reasons behind why these landmarks were replaced or demolished. My interest was sparked by an article in Creative Loafing Atlanta titled “Atlanta’s forgotten black history” written by Scott Henry in 2010. In the article Henry discusses how many of the sites that hold important history for the Black community are replaced or demolished because the City of Atlanta felt the need to build a new parking deck, didn’t see the importance of the location, or the funds just were not available to preserve the site.

This is a problem frustrating, not only to me, but to groups like Georgia State University’s Heritage Preservation program. Richard Laub, the director of the Heritage Preservation program, is someone who has long been fighting for the preservation of important black civil rights locations, but he also recognizes the limitations: “In preservation circles, we’ve sometimes done a poor job of advocating for African-American buildings and educating that community about what’s out there.” The most challenging problem that I have encountered while doing my research of each of the historical sites is trying to find an accurate location.The most obvious difficulty is finding locations for the landmarks that have been demolished or repurposed because a lot of the time there is no record of the locations anywhere.

Through hard work and determination I have been able to find resources like dobsearch.com where I can look up businesses that might still be around today, but were associated with a different address during the Civil Rights Movement. For example, this website helped me find the old location of Aleck’s Barbecue Heaven which is still run today, but the old location was demolished and turned into a Walmart parking lot. Another helpful tool I’ve come across is a database of Online Historical Directories or basically the Yellow Pages of the 20th Century. This database has complete historical directories of the city of Atlanta scanned online dating back to the 1860s. This source creates another issue that affects many of the historical sites. A lot of the sites have outdated addresses where the names of the streets have changed. Also, the historical directories use a shorthand when writing addresses and I’ve had to google guides on how to interpret the confusing code.

All in all, this project has a lot of promise considering all of the groups that could benefit. I plan on trying to connect with the Atlanta History Center in order to possibly acquire more forgotten landmarks. Also, by showing off ATLmaps’ ability to display this type of data on a map and tell a story, it will make the platform more marketable to big organizations with data that can be mapped. I envision the Civil Rights Atlas would make a good fit as an exhibit at the Civil Rights Museum, and maybe they would be interested in collaborating on creating different story lines through ATLmaps.

As the semester continues I will keep updating the blog with the progress on each of the projects. I’m excited to see how ATLmaps continues to improve and grow while I am a fellow here!