Day: May 18, 2016

A Digital Time Travel Machine Reveals Keweenaw History

The miners in the boom days of the Copper Country knew that in order to find what they wanted, they had to “drill down.” Today, thanks to the efforts of researchers in Michigan Technological University’s Social Sciences Department and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, those wishing to find out about the people and the places of the Keweenaw’s past can “drill down” through history.

Keweenaw Time Traveler is an online map-based tool allowing visitors to explore the layers of history for any location in the Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon county region. The project uses proven technologies and techniques of participatory Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It also employs collections of geographic data and tools that are interactively connected, enabling users to incorporate their own information about a place and store that data long-term, to create a high-resolution database that maps changes in the social, natural, industrial and built environments of the Copper Country from 1850 to 1970.

The project is the brainchild of Social Sciences faculty Don Lafreniere, assistant professor of historical geography; Sarah Scarlett, assistant professor of history; and PhD candidate John Arnold, an architect by profession. They have received $259,882 from the National Endowment of the Humanities to support their work.

The project can be accessed at

Read the full story.

From Tech Today.   



Lafreniere Co-Authors Paper on Racist Housing Practices

housingstudiesAssistant Professor Don Lafreniere (SS) co-authored a paper, “Racist housing practices as a precursor to uneven neighborhood change in a post-industrial city” in the journal Housing Studies




Racial dynamics and discrimination have been extremely important in influencing decline in the American Rust Belt. The mid-twentieth century departure of white and middle-class populations from cities was precipitated by a breakdown of discriminatory housing practices. This study examines the relationship among housing condition, vacancies, poverty, and demographics in Flint, Michigan, from 1950 to 2010. Historical census data from the National Historical GIS and housing condition data from the City of Flint government are aggregated to neighborhoods defined by economic condition factor (n = 102). Results of rank-difference correlation and geographically weighted regression indicate that, across neighborhoods with the greatest decline in housing condition, the strongest correlate was most often the increase in vacancy rates driven initially by racially motivated suburbanization – suggesting that demographic change alone is not primarily responsible for neighborhood decline. This research is important to understanding the long-term and ongoing consequences of mid-twentieth century racist housing practices, particularly as it relates to the implications of maintaining legacy infrastructure.