Luke Tomczuk Update #9- March 20th

This week was another one filled with positives and negatives, but the negatives were fewer and further between compared to previous weeks. I finally resolved something on Thursday that I have been worried about for weeks now: how I am going to meet with Dr. Nepa. I am happy to report that I will meet with him tomorrow morning at 11 am. This is a significant development because as I said in class, I am not confident in my ability to find primary sources without his help. If all goes well, the meeting should cover how he conducted his research for his article “Cemeteries,” which I mentioned in a few previous entries, and then obtain his thoughts on cemetery removal. I plan to send him my secondary sources obtained to this point and the progress of my paper up to that point. After the meeting, I will send the Historical Society a request for material from their Woodlands Cemetery Company Papers. Exactly which boxes and catalogs I will request is not determined at this time. It is my hope that the meeting with Dr. Nepa will clear up the discrepancies between myself and the primary sources needed to complete the project. I am open to any follow-ups as well. In other news, it was refreshing to once again review someone else’s work. I felt that I provided the feedback Stephen White needed to complete his next draft. His paper, in my opinion, needs a clear road map to explain his intentions. His lack of information on his main topic until page six confused me, but a road map should resolve this issue. It also felt good to be back at Special Collections on Monday and Friday after a two-week absence. The two books that are held there have been the two best secondary sources I have to this point.

Another meeting I will have in the coming week will be with Dr. Lowe. This was something she had suggested before the break but sadly never materialized. One aspect she pointed out to me was that my paper has no clear timeline and was not in chronological order. This means that I am orienting my paper to fit my argument instead of providing a timeline for the reader. Getting this project re-oriented will be challenging because it is not a task I have undertaken in quite sometime. At the same time, it should be a simpler fix once my timeline is squared away and I have reliable primary sources. Dr. Lowe also provided me with a simpler way to cite my sources through Word’s insert footnote function. This was a trick no one had shown me before, and it will prevent me from tediously citing them as I had done previously. I would like to thank her for this and also suggesting contacts for help with my Web Mapping course. This is another course which takes up significant time for me and which I have struggled all semester. It has been one of my greatest obstacles thus far in completing this project. It has been a blessing to see Dr. Lowe wanting us all to succeed in all of our endeavors this semester. In the coming week, with help from my two planned meetings, I would like to obtain the primary sources needed and get as far along in my next mini-draft as possible. Unfortunately I do not think I can get to 5000 words before the next class. That said, I will come prepared with whatever I have prepared for that next class.

Luke Tomczuk Update #8- March 13th

This week was presented with good news and some not so good news. It started on a very good note, as I worked very hard to complete the outline and two paragraphs on Sunday night, a deadline that I missed back on February 27th. It was a grueling process, but now I believe my paper has the flow it had not before. The guide that Dr. Lowe posted for us was very helpful as well. I learned through completing it that my paper does not need to have the same structure in every section. What I mean by this is that not every research concept equates to one paragraph, but some can. It really depends on where in the paper you refer to and is subject to change as anything else. That will surely be a positive aspect going forward. On Friday, I completed a substantial chunk of the upcoming 2500-word draft. I am currently at 1218 words as of the time of this blog post’s submission. That word count could definitely be lower, and it feels good to be this far along with a few days before submission. It is a point I did not reach before the last assignment, and it is a sigh of relief that it has happened.

I wrote in the last entry that this week would be considered a working vacation. For this class, it was to an extent. The biggest disappointment was not reaching out to Dr. Nepa and talking about my paper. That will be priority #1 before my next update. I fully understand that time is of the essence, and now that Spring Break is in the review mirror that will become even more of a factor. His expertise will certainly be appreciated and will kick my project into higher gear. That said, I am not panicking about this at all. We are at a point in which there is still time, but there is just less of it than before. I will not fully be confident in my sources until I meet with him, but that does not mean I failed to track down any material. My easiest class, Urban Geography, has helped me complete this project more than I ever anticipated. Recently I saw a PowerPoint which contained a slide about redlining. I believe this to be an underappreciated piece to my cemetery removal equation. Both University City and North Philadelphia were red-lined; I was so intrigued by this that I included it in my outline. I plan to ask my professor how she obtained the map so I could use it as a primary source. On Friday I ran into a high school friend who works at the Historical Society. She told me a little bit more about their cemetery collection and the hours that it is open. She was not an expert but any information is greatly appreciated. For the coming week, I plan to finish the 2500 word draft and reach out to more contacts. Once that happens I believe I will be able to move along further.

Luke Tomczuk Update #7- Spring Break

This week I was fortunate to have my paper reviewed for the first time in class. Since this was a busy week for my other courses, I could not bring in my outline and first two paragraphs on Wednesday. Therefore, I brought in my historiography instead. I first reviewed Michael Trudeau’s paper about the Battle of Britain. His topic is intriguing because it makes an interesting argument, that Hugh Dowding was the hero of the Battle of Britain because of improved radar technology. Drawing from skills that I learned in my intermediate writing seminar class, I told him that his paper could be better served with a bolder claim. It would be interesting to see if he can prove that Dowding was the hero of the entire war instead of merely suggesting it. However, it is his decision with what he wants to do with his paper. The other paper I reviewed was Nathan Davis’s paper about the Interstate Highway System. This is a topic I am extremely passionate about because I have always been fascinated with highways on a personal level and more recently in academic study. I like the direction of his paper; it has great potential. I regret marking up his outline like a book, but I wanted to give the best feedback I could. I plan to connect him with a source detailing how the Manhattan Expressway was stopped by famous urban activist Jane Jacobs that I utilized in another course. It was a source I used for this class in an earlier assignment. As for my historiography, my two reviewers as well as Dr. Lowe liked what I had. I will take the advice they gave me, especially Dr. Lowe’s point about neatly combining two historiographies, to heart.

While reviewing other peoples’ projects was satisfying, it was disappointing not getting the outline done on time. I just would like to do the best I can on this capstone, and completing assignments on time goes a long way towards achieving that goal. I feel fortunate to have the support in this class that I do, which makes this less satisfying. That leads me to my next topic: what I hope to accomplish over Spring Break. I hope to complete the outline and two paragraphs by the end of the day today. Then, I will email Dr. Stephen Nepa to hopefully meet later this week. I thought a good idea might be to chat at a set location that works for him. Whenever it takes place, either this week or shortly thereafter, I look forward to informing him on my topic and my progress to this point. As necessary I might visit other special collections that I mentioned in previous entries. A mistake I made in my historiography was not using a source Dr. Lowe mentioned called “Penn’s Great Expansion.” Depending on what I get from that, I will pick up more primary and secondary material from new special collections. Lastly, I hope to complete my 2500 word draft by the end of the break. I know this is an ambitious agenda given where I am now, but it is nice to have those two extra days next week just in case. Late on Friday, I renewed my hold for the two books being held at Temple’s Special Collections for me. I did not visit there this week, but hopefully this renewal will ensure visits after the break, which I am calling a working vacation. Next week I hope to have more updates with the significant progress I plan to make.

Luke Tomczuk Update #6- 2/27

This week started out in a positive way. On Monday, I visited Special Collections for the fourth time. I completed some research for about an hour and a half in the afternoon towards the historiography assignment. I found some more secondary sources that might contribute towards narrowing my topic even further. For instance, I found an article from “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” the student newspaper for the University of Pennsylvania, that suggested Penn covered up a cemetery during its expansion process. The evidence they uncovered was a historical map that they obtained, and they claim that a new apartment building would sit on top of the cemetery. This is very similar to what Temple did regarding Monument Cemetery. More scholarly evidence is needed, but luckily it exists. One source that could describe what I am looking for is John L. Puckett and Mark Frazier Floyd’s article “Penn’s Great Expansion.” According to the footnotes on JSTOR, they cite a plethora of primary and secondary material, yet none of the end-notes mention a cemetery. I have not thoroughly examined this source yet but I plan to in the next two weeks.

The previous point highlighted briefly what my greatest weakness of the historiography was: I did not use the proper secondary material. I was more focused on finishing the assignment done rather than on the source material. Fortunately, the entire project does not rest on a rough draft of the historiography. There is more opportunity to improve on this and the other parts of the capstone before the end of the semester. The snow day aided significantly in the completion of the historiography. However, it did not help matters much beyond that. I feel as though a refresher on the requirements behind completing the outline, thesis, and two paragraphs portion would be helpful. A one or two-day extension of that due date may not be practical for logistical purposes but it still would be welcome. On Tuesday, Dr. Urwin, whom I have for US Civil War this semester, suggested I turn my capstone into a book somewhere down the road. That is a point I did not consider previously. It intrigues me greatly because my future after graduation is foggy, especially given my recent struggles with GIS. I will re-examine this possibility following the capstone’s completion. Spring Break will be a great opportunity in advancing my project significantly. I hope to connect with Dr. Nepa sometime that week and visit another Special Collection. A precursor to the break could come this week as my Monday and Friday mornings and early afternoons have opened up. It is my hope that upon our return my project will come along in an unprecedented way.

Luke Tomczuk Update #5- February 17th

I have made more progress this week than in previous weeks for sure. Dr. Lowe being in the classroom once again really contributed to these changes. I am thankful she is feeling better. Wednesday’s visit to her office in class could not have went better. I learned that I will have a harder time than most in finding secondary sources because of the uniqueness behind my topic. Despite a lack of materials for cemeteries, there are some viable resources concerning Philadelphia, urban renewal, and especially blight. When Temple University purchased Monument Cemetery, the land was considered blight, or a severe detriment to the surrounding community. This distinction has been noted in other buildings such as the Comcast Center. Blight has given me a new angle on the project: Does blight status significantly contribute to cemetery removal? I believe the answer to this question will be yes but further research is needed. Dr. Lowe also reaffirmed that I should visit the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s cemetery collection. Exactly when this would take place is up in the air because I heard this weekend that they are not open on weekends. I will create a plan to visit before Spring Break ends.

The recent visit to Special Collections has also played a significant factor in the progress I made this week. On Friday, I again visited the collection. This time I used the opportunity to review Allan M. Heller’s “Philadelphia Area Cemeteries.” Its contents led me to organize my thoughts regarding the upcoming historiography assignment. For instance, I plan to mention exactly who gets moved and why. Additionally I will examine Temple and Penn’s aggressive motives for expansion in the 1950s and see if Penn’s situation was similar with respect to cemetery removal. A sub-argument could be that the City of Philadelphia assisted these entities through certain policies that encouraged blight distinction. Once again more research is needed. I ran into one of my friends on Friday as well who is writing his Honors Thesis paper with Dr. Travis Glasson. He told me that he has some resources regarding Washington Square and the victims of Philadelphia’s Yellow Fever outbreaks. I am hoping to obtain these links as soon as possible, preferably before the historiography assignment is due. On Monday I plan to return to Special Collections to further examine my sources located there. By the end of the weekend I hope to email Jessica Baumert, a contact from the Woodlands Cemetery, about my project. It is my hope to meet with her and for her to provide the clarity I am still searching for. For the time being, though, I am happier with my progress than I have been in a while. I hope to have even more positive developments in the next update.

Luke Tomczuk Update #4- February 13th

This week was filled with ups and downs as far as my paper is concerned. New considerations and applications have refined the way I will go about my project. The most positive development of this week was visiting the Special Collections Research Center at Paley Library. There I met Jose Hurtado, the librarian who displayed the center to our class. He showed me how to register to request materials at the Research Center and provided me with two resources that I earlier could not find at the Stacks. Then I proceeded to have the Center hold them for two weeks. This will be beneficial because they were resources that I needed but could not find. However, I made more of an effort than just obtaining sources. I stayed after the presentation and gathered more sources, including additional web articles. I finally narrowed down my topic to vanished cemeteries, a term Thomas H. Keels uses in his book “Philadelphia Graveyards and Cemeteries.” Before they closed, I obtained a list of vanished cemeteries he lists in the index. This development will help me discover more about what I would like to discuss, possibly including a specific cemetery. It also led me to re-calibrate my project.

At Special Collections, I got the idea to perhaps map out all or some vanished cemeteries in a storyboard format. The storyboard map idea has re-emerged for this reason. If this is the route I choose to go in, I will visit Special Collections frequently. Dr. Stephen Nepa’s resource I discussed in my first update provided me with an additional special collection previously unknown to me. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has a special collection on cemeteries at their museum. In addition to two contacts at cemeteries themselves, I believe I will use contacts there for primary source material. I still need to figure out the feasibility of such a project. Therefore, I look forward to discussing this possibility with Dr. Lowe. I wish I could have advanced even further along in the project this week. I missed the opportunity to discuss my project and my classmates’ this week due to the structure of the class. Hopefully we can get back to that interaction soon. Yet I still like the direction my project is moving towards. By the time we get to next Sunday, I hope to have more focus and direction towards my project and its execution. A meeting with Dr. Lowe should help.

Luke Tomczuk Update #2- February 6th

This week, there were several circumstances that prevented me from getting further along in my capstone process than I hoped. Most of it had to do with difficulties from another class. I was saddened to hear that Dr. Lowe had to cancel class last week, but I’m hoping that she is feeling better now and that we will meet this week at Paley. This said, there were some positive outcomes this week. From reading an article on Monday in another class, I finally had an idea for narrowing my topic. It came when I heard that in early 1960s New York City, famed developer Robert Moses wanted to build a highway over Washington Square Park, one of the most intricate parks in the city. I figured this could definitely apply to cemeteries. Therefore, I will focus my project on cemeteries vs. construction projects. I also picked up one of my secondary sources from Paley on Thursday, David Charles Sloane’s work “The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History.” Chapter eight has some intriguing content that I hope to utilize in my paper. Dr. Lowe gave me further guidance on another source which I tried to locate last Sunday but was unable to. It is, however, in Paley’s Special Collections which we will visit in the coming week. I plan to register with that office to obtain the source. If I cannot find what I am looking for in these and other sources, I will utilize their bibliographies to get closer.

In light of class on Wednesday, I was pleased to complete my capstone proposal and assist one of my classmates in her project. Audrey’s project will be about what happened to Chinese women in the post-Mao era. There is very little that I know about this topic, but I tried to help her as best I could. The most challenging part of this process was finding resources related to the topic. This is consistent with challenges she brought up in class since some sources are biased and/or contain inaccurate translations. Nevertheless, I provided her with two secondary sources that could align with her topic. Meanwhile, Michael reviewed my topic and provided me with a review on Friday. I read over his analysis thoroughly and will attempt to take his advice to heart. It is my hope that we can discuss how to execute this further in class or in a one-on-one meeting with Dr. Lowe. This activity was rewarding because like in previous weeks, it helped me reflect on how to make my paper better. I did have some setbacks this week, but I look towards the new week with optimism.

Luke Tomczuk Update #1- January 27th

I am so far very impressed with the direction that my paper is going in. Preparing my elevator pitch in advance of class gives me leverage for this coming week’s paper proposal and for the overall paper. Additionally, I have now started to review the sources that Dr. Lowe graciously gave me last week, and using them to find more secondary sources. Dr. Stephen Nepa’s “Cemeteries,” which can be found in the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, contained three intriguing sources, one book from Paley Library, another from the Ambler Campus, and one JSTOR Article. Although I have not narrowed my topic fully just yet, Nepa’s article helped me eliminate focusing on cemeteries outside of Philadelphia city limits, such as New Jersey or Delaware cemeteries. I will narrow my topic further soon, as I plan to either explore period cemeteries (Colonial, Victorian/Civil War) or only specific cemeteries or groups of cemeteries (Mt. Moriah, Laurel Hill, Woodlands.) I feel comfortable in this process because I do not feel it is the end of the world if I do not have my topic narrowed all the way by Wednesday. The new sources will only help me to accomplish this goal. In addition to Dr. Nepa, I also plan to speak with representatives from Woodlands and Laurel Hill Cemeteries, whom I hope will provide statistics including how many cemeteries there are in Philadelphia and their categories. This unique opportunity will go an even longer way towards specifying my topic.

Soon I will also explore primary sources related to my topic. The top database for this task is ProQuest Historical Newspapers, which houses historical editions of the Philadelphia Inquirer. I want to find an article that mentioned movement of a cemetery or its proposal. I have been unable to locate such an article as of yet, but I will keep pursuing that goal. There is a possibility that I will ask the cemetery representatives for assistance. I am also looking forward to hearing more from my peers on their topics. It felt great to suggest George Washington’s Farewell Address as a primary source to one of my peers who plans to examine his decision to remain neutral during the French Revolution. Such input helps my own paper because it gives me added confidence to do the same. The Interstate Highway System project is one I am keenly interested in as well since both presidential history and interstate highways have always intrigued me greatly. It will be amazing to see all of our projects come along in their own way. I never thought I would write a capstone paper on cemetery history, but I cannot wait to see the finished project. Looking forward to another update following my paper proposal.

Luke Tomczuk- Research Blog #1

Hello everyone! My name is Luke Tomczuk, and I am a senior history major also going for a certificate in Geographic Information Systems, or GIS. I am from Northeast Philadelphia. Some of my interests outside of my academics include watching football, going into Philadelphia, and keeping up with politics. I also have five other classes this semester (one of which will end following Spring Break,) an on-campus job at the Information Desk at the Howard Gittis Student Center, and a member of Temple Student Government’s (TSG’s) Parliament representing students with disabilities on campus. My concentration within the major is American history, and history has been my major throughout my four years at Temple. I picked up the option to collect the GIS Certificate in the fall of my junior year, which is also when I took my Intermediate Writing Seminar class with Dr. Stephen Nepa. This was the only occasion by which I was exposed to urban history through one of my history classes. I hope to incorporate GIS into a career that satisfies my interests, and that this capstone project could be a stepping stone towards making that thought into a reality.

With this in mind, my capstone will focus on an aspect of urban history that does not receive the attention it deserves. The other source of inspiration for my topic comes from a surprising source: a student-led documentary. Last year during a TSG meeting, I saw a documentary that talked about Monument Cemetery, which existed where Geasey Field currently exists. The cemetery housed the remains of Revolutionary and Civil War veterans among others. That was until the university acquired the land in 1956, and the bodies were buried in a mass grave in Rockledge, PA and the tombstones were placed along a creek near the Betsy Ross Bridge. This same scenario took place elsewhere in the city. Therefore, I would like to examine what happens when cemeteries close and bodies move to another location. If not, I will study some other aspect of cemetery history. I briefly mentioned how I am in the process of obtaining a GIS Undergraduate Certificate. This semester I am taking Web Mapping and GIS, which will allow me to explore creating a story map instead of a traditional research paper. The class is intended to teach how to create maps using computer coding technology. I am not officially decided at this point about whether I will move forward with the story map, but the idea does intrigue me. I am fortunate that Dr. Lowe has provided me with background research material to help me narrow the scope of my topic. It is my hope that I will look over this material in the next week and meet with experts like Dr. Nepa in the near future. I hope this project will be a worthwhile finish to my undergraduate writing career.