Week 8 Blog – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 8 Blog

My project is almost done, even though I didn’t initially think I’d be able to complete it. With one week left, I may be able to scan all of the photos. Considering my project mostly dealt with photos of Detroit from 70 years ago, and no interaction with the surrounding community, I find it hard to say whether I learned much about the community through any direct experiences. However, I think I did learn a bit about it through my interaction with these old photos. Looking at the old houses, I noticed that the ones in suburbs were more likely to be in good condition now than houses built in the city proper. I saw a lot of businesses which simply don’t exist anymore, including some which were clearly demolished to build highways. Like I’ve said previously, I feel like this is a very clear reminder of the struggles Detroit has gone through.

I’d also say that it’s given me some insight into how historical societies operate, at least on the collections side of things. I was able to sit in on a meeting a few weeks ago where everyone at the collections center went through numerous artifacts and photos and voted whether to accept them or not. These were donated items by people with an interest in the history of the city, but limited resources meant some things were rejected and some things were offered to different historical institutions (a military vehicle was offered to a military museum). I also realized that the collections center itself was part of a pattern of less-than-ideally funded spaces, with the power going out twice now in one week, resulting in people having to work from home. Because the society operates in Fort Wayne on a strange non-paying lease type agreement, it’s up to the city to fix these problems, something they didn’t do last time for four days (including the weekend). When I started at the site, it didn’t have air conditioning for about two weeks either.

Overall, this was a satisfying experience to learn more about Detroit. When paired with exploring the city on my own or helping the community outside of the project, it helped compliment those activities with a sense of historical knowledge and understanding of the city.

1 thought on “Week 8 Blog”

  1. Congratulations on being able to accomplish what might have seemed like an endless task, Joshua. I am so curious about the photos you got to see and research, it makes me think of a detective story. Although you’re reaching the finish line with your project, perhaps now that the photographs are digitized, it’s really the beginning of a new chapter about what they mean, and what the stories are behind them. Perhaps there will be some greater discoveries by individuals, families and historians. I’m fascinated to find out about some of the behind the scenes team meetings and also some of the surprising situations you’ve described about the property’s condition. What an interesting way to gain insight about museum practices and also Detroit’s ongoing challenges. Looking forward to your presentation at the Showcase!

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