Aim of En Routes

Postcards were the Twitter, Facebook, Flick, Instagram, and email (all in one) of the 1900s. And for the United States, the expansion of postcard printing coincided with the nation’s territorial expansion throughout the Caribbean. As a strategic location to secure the sugar and tobacco markets, Puerto Rico felt the presence of large American corporations, tourists, and missionaries. The social and physical landscape of the island were transformed by a new infrastructure, shaped by a modern colonial system.

The aim of En Routes is to create a prototype site for educators and learners to engage with the roads, railroads, factories, and individuals depicted on postcards printed between 1898 and 1950. This digital showcase of postcards seeks to facilitate learners with ways of thinking and practicing history, as well as with tools for them to examine the social and political issues surrounding the modernization process in Puerto Rico under American rule.

Historical Thinking

Accessing primary sources, such as postcards, creates opportunities for learners to engage in historical thinking activities. They will get to examine evidence, observe change over time, gain empathy for perspectives of past societies, and build arguments that might help them understand the current complex relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Through a comparison across postcards and the presentation of interpretive narratives, this showcase may generate many possible paths of inquiry:

-Who created these postcards? When were they created?

-Why were they created?

-Who were these cards created for? Who mailed them?

-What can we learn about American history through this collection? Do they tell viewers about U.S. expansionism in early 20th century?

-Who funded the building of these roads and railroads? Who worked in the factories?

-What can we learn about Puerto Rican history? In what ways do these postcards speak for the economic and cultural realities of Puerto Ricans?

-What stories are their creators trying to tell us? What stories are they not telling us?

-Does this collection portray the complex relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico?

-What is the impact of technology upon the Puerto Rican landscape?

-Who benefited from the industrialization of the island?

-What was life like for Puerto Ricans portrayed on these postcards?

Digital Media and Tools

The site will have a variety of digital features to generate audience engagement with the postcard collection, including:  a carousel to exhibit the images, a tool to enhance the viewing (zoom into and around details), audio clips illustrating or augmenting textual narratives, and a tooltip for users to open a hover box with metadata details. The site would have a method of displaying a subset of thumbnails for more effective comparisons across postcards.




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