In 2017, Richard Edwards, Jacob K. Friefeld, and Rebecca S. Wingo called for new scholarship on the United States Homestead Act of 1862 in their book, Homesteading the Plains. Academics and the public have historically disagreed over the significance of the act, and the authors set forth a series of new understandings to advance future scholarship and challenge historic assumptions.
As part of this endeavor, Wingo taught a course, “The Homestead Act and Data Visualization,” at Macalester College in Spring 2018 in which the students developed a class-wide database of homesteaders in Polk County, Nebraska, and used their individual research interests to visualize the data. This is their website.
Students have used mapping, network analysis, statistical analysis, and textual analysis to explore questions relating to community formation, demography, family structure, and geography. They have not only engaged with the historiography of homesteading, but they have contributed to it. Their work on the Polk County database is in service to the larger Homestead Project out of the Center for Great Plains Studies.
The Homestead Act and Data Visualization is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.