Network to Freedom – Using GIS to Promote and Preserve Underground Railroad History
Written by: Winnie Cargill
Hi! My name is Winnie Cargill and I am the GIS intern for the National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. I have interned with the Network to Freedom for two years. During these two years, I have learned that freedom seekers traveled to places such as California, Mexico, Bahamas, Ohio, and Nebraska. Our 700+ members have amazing stories and places to share about the individuals who sacrificed everything to have autonomy of their life. One of my tasks is managing our online map that educates the public about our members. The link to our map is: ArcGIS Web Application.
The Network to Freedom’s Mission includes:
- Educating the public about the Underground Railroad
- Provide technical assistance for documenting, preserving, and promoting Underground Railroad History
- Creating a network of historic sites; interpretive and educational programs; and research and educational facilities that all possess a “verifiable association” to the Underground Railroad
Through GIS, I have been involved with many projects that touch on the technical assistance aspect. A few of these projects included Storymaps. A storymap is an ArcGIS component that uses maps along with text and photographs to tell a narrative. One example is a Storymap that the Network to Freedom created with U.S. ICOMOS last September. September is recognized as International Underground Railroad Month in many states. (International Underground Railroad Month (nps.gov))
Our program’s headquarters is based at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park in Church Creek, MD. Harriet Tubman spent her childhood around this area and there are historic sites along the Harriet Tubman Byway that describe her life in Maryland and the events that lead to the woman she became.
One thing I love about the Network to Freedom Members is the diversity of knowledge and individuals that come together to share their community stories and family histories with us. I am honored to hear about these stories and meet these individuals.
I am constantly learning about the flight and resistance movement and more freedom seekers. We have many projects planned for 2023 and our upcoming 25th anniversary. If you are interested in the Underground Railroad, I highly suggest watching this video about Lewis Hayden’s story: https://youtu.be/Xuk0obth4Qs