In 1893, Wilbur Seibert, a history professor at The Ohio State University, published a book containing maps that depicted the first systematized vision of the routes enslaved people used to escape across the Ohio River and into the free North and Canada. Seibert spent decades of his career interviewing Black men and women who fled slavery through Ohio and recorded accounts of the "agents"––nearly 3,000 white land-owners––who sheltered fugitives in their homes.
Though not the first recording of those who escaped slavery, Seibert's work is acknowledged as the first "academic" practice. This presentation will share the research, mapping, and graphic tools employed by Karen Lewis, architect, educator and researcher, who maps and visualizes the narratives embedded within these maps.
Karen Lewis is an Associate Professor of Architecture at The Ohio State University whose research and teaching address how visual and information systems shape the architectural, territorial and infrastructural space they create and inhabit. She has held fellowships at Dumbarton Oaks, the Newberry Library, and through the National Endowment for the Humanities to study the 19th-century visualization strategies, maps and graphic tools of the transcontinental American west. She has also written and lectured about the ways archives hide and structure knowledge through their architecture, environment and user-interfaces. Her book, Graphic Design for Architects, positions issues of architectural representation through the lens of information design and visual communication.
Professor Lewis’s visualizations of the Underground Railroad were featured in 2022 in Crossings: Mapping American Journeys, an exhibition at the Newberry Library which visualized three stories of men and women who escaped slavery and created their Underground Railroads.