VAF member Meredith Drake Reitan was part of a research team featured on the Save As podcast. She will be presenting the work in progress during Session One at the VAF Virtual Conference on May 22.
Bunker Hill Refrain focuses on a neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles that has a deep and storied history. Subdivided in 1867, the neighborhood was originally home to some of Los Angeles’ most distinguished residents. As the city grew towards the west and south, a diverse mix of families, seniors and low-wage workers replaced the early settlers. At the midpoint of the twentieth century, planners and policy makers began to make the case that the area was blighted. With the establishment of the Bunker Hill Urban Redevelopment Project in 1958, the hill and the housing on top of it was demolished to make way for high-rise towers and cultural institutions. Between 6,000 and 9,000 individuals were displaced.
The aim of the project is to deepen our understanding of the demographics of Bunker Hill by making use of household survey cards compiled by the Works Progress Administration in 1939. These cards contain valuable, and as yet untapped, information about the inhabitants of Bunker Hill dwellings, including their ownership status, length of residence, rent, and race or ethnicity. During the project’s first phase, researchers have culled a data set of approximately 5,000 cards that reflect the boundaries of the Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project area. Because much of the data was hand-written, the WPA cards need to be manually transcribed. This is a time-consuming process that requires hundreds of staff hours. To address this challenge, the project team will crowdsource the data transcription using ZOONIVERSE, an online platform designed to support and encourage Citizen Science – the voluntary participation of members of the general public to describe and analyze scientific data. It is a pioneering tool in a library and public history context.