Historical Geographies of Childhood through Early 20th C. Archives

Meghan Cope, University of Vermont

‘Illegitimate’ births, ‘feebleminded’ children, and ‘drunk’ parents are just some of the comments included in the Matron’s handwritten records of the Home for Destitute Children in Burlington, VT. Add to this the incomplete records, sensitive issues of privacy, falsified public documents, and locational inaccuracies, and my project digitizing and analyzing orphanage logbooks from the early twentieth century presents a variety of challenges. In a substantive way, the project raises issues of trauma, family poverty and abuse, the Eugenics Movement, and allusions to an idyllic rural childhood that stand in stark relief to children’s lived experiences. Empirically, the project provides some insight on a rarely-considered form of (involuntary) child migration and family separation but is limited by a lack of children’s own perspectives, with only brief hints at individual agency or ‘voice’ within the ‘official’ records. In an effort to combine my previous work on ‘qualitative GIS’ and children’s geographies with a peek back 100 years, I’m exploring the tools and approaches of geo-humanities, such as StoryMaps and timelines, in hopes that they will allow me to engage with these archives respectfully but with a critical perspective.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 89. Children’s Navigation of Institutions and Institutionalization