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Thursday, May 12 • 10:45am - 11:00am
A Social History of Water Rights: Digitizing the Los Angeles Aqueduct

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The Los Angeles Aqueduct is central to understanding the history of modern Los Angeles and battles over water scarcity in the region. Dating back to its construction in 1913, the aqueduct has been both a source of controversy and an engine for population growth in Los Angeles. The aqueduct’s history is rife with questions over political power, water rights, Native American sovereignty, and environmental degradation. From 2013-2015, the UCLA Library and Metabolic Studio aimed to capture the complexity of the aqueduct’s history with the creation of the Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform (LAADP). Designed as both an archive and a source of scholarship, the website houses over 2,000 archival materials that have been digitized and a scholarship section that hosts dozens of contributions from UCLA students.

This paper will be centered on the platform’s capstone project. I was hired to work with a team of undergraduate students to produce a series of original pieces for the scholarship section using digital humanities tools. We decided to focus on groups that have been adversely affected by the aqueduct’s construction and produce a social history of the aqueduct. The five pieces we produced looked at a variety of issues ranging from the history of Paiute natives in the region to contemporary concerns over dust pollution in the Owens Valley. Using long-form narrative, GIS, data visualizations, and a host of other tools, we were able to creatively reimagine various facets of the aqueduct’s history. Building on previous works of digital history, this project looked to situate the aqueduct as an evolving, contested space that has been reinterpreted by different generations of Californians. I will argue that the LAADP serves as a model for producing digital history projects that address a multifaceted topic while also fostering student research on issues of both contemporary and historical importance.


Thursday May 12, 2016 10:45am - 11:00am MST
COOR L1-84 975 S Myrtle Ave Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 85281
  Archives and Collections, Long paper
  • Session Location COOR L1-84