The Arrowhead on the Internet: A Conversation with National Park Service Cartographer Mamata Akella

Edge Effects is the official blog of the Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. It’s latest post excerpts a conversation between UW-Madison Geography graduate student Carl Sack and Colorado State University’s Mamata Akella, a cartographer for the National Park Service’s NPMap team and touches repeatedly on the connections between environmental and digital humanities.

Carl Sack: There’s currently a lot of research interest in the digital humanities. How can digital mapping projects contribute to the national parks’ role as centers of history and cultural heritage?

Mamata Akella: In so many ways. One of the parks that we’re doing is Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Site in Skagway, Alaska. [Before] I went out there, I never even knew this place existed, but when you go there the story is just so interesting. Somebody said, “I found a nugget of gold up here,” and then so many people came without even knowing whether they were going to find gold. There are two treacherous trails that people would take up. One of them was the Chilkoot Trail, which was an American Indian trail that they would take to go up to The Yukon. Then there was a town, Skagway, where people would go and get a year’s worth of supplies to take up to the Yukon. Because Alaska’s terrain is really treacherous, they would go in winter to cross rivers when things were frozen. So that’s a really neat piece of cultural history. Everybody goes to Skagway because it’s a big port for cruise ships, where you go and buy jewelry and do all these things, but what we’ve been trying to do through these mobile maps is really tell the story of the place.

Disappearing Homelands, a Park Service web map currently under construction. Image courtesy of Mamata Akella.

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Source: The Arrowhead on the Internet: A Conversation with National Park Service Cartographer Mamata Akella

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