Telephonic Supplychains Envscan Present

Environmental Scan

This project explores issues at the intersection of material culture and historical analysis. In doing so, it addresses the growing needs of scholars who couple theories of exchange drawn from anthropology and archaeology with historians working to uncover the social and cultural conditions of historical shifts surrounding technology and materiality. The supply chain studies require increased access to a highly specialized set of documents in order to further this investigation.

Within the context of the broader topic, the reconstruction of historic supply chains, the increased availability of these collections of documents has promoted strong efforts into approaches that leverage these reconstructed supply chains. Digging into data grants have supported recent efforts in economic and environmental history to reconstruct trade routes in order to explore not only their reach, but their implications. Communication scholars, too, have become invested in writing new histories that explore the material construction of communication technologies. While the histories of telecommunication have emphasized the force of technological change within projects of modernity and nation building. Critical accounts have struggled to contextualize these seemingly profound transformations within theories of communication technology while building meaningful explanations for recent developments in the way we communicate.

This interest is informed by the techniques of Actor-Network Theory, tracing the associations that formed around invention and manufacturing, while interpreting these findings in historiographic tradition. These investigations reveal the differentiation and overlap between links, describe the actors and communities behind them, and show how these networks have been shaped by technology just as they provided the structure needed to construct it.

Archives for exploring these technologies in this mode are widely dispersed. Much of this material remains undigitzed, in the hands of private (and difficult to access) corporate archives, or in larger government collections that surround them with much larger collections of material. A "common" collection of materials has become available only haphazardly, available in a collector's aftermarket on sites like ebay, presented without context in the google books project or within the Internet Archive ( Corporate sources are difficult to obtain access to, and offer only limited summaries ( of materials.

This landscapes sits at the point of new initiatives and programs that are actively addressing this lack, making the procedural and technical documents of business history related to telecommunication more widely available ( &, but these remain at a nascent stage. Until these materials become available, scholarly researchers and the public have only limited access to diverse resources, non-scholarly materials ( and traditional narratives of invention and inventors (

At the same time, the ability for scholars and an engaged public to explore the material networks of technologies, the geographic landscapes, and the implications of these perspectives, has entered a renaissance of activity and exploration. Geographies of trade, drawn from compiled sources absent original materials, proliferate. Rich visualization and technical capabilities allow for new investigations in these spaces (,, but absent access to the original materials and source documents, the potential reach of these investigations, the conclusions and research directions that can be drawn from them, and the promise of plumbing the material interconnection of the technologies of communication and connection, remain limited, unsure, and uncertain.

Presentation Links

Common Sources for Telephone Materials - Usually on Ebay, Google Books, Sometimes the Internet Archive.
AT&T Archival Materials - Mostly relegated to non-document summaries of broad impressions. Large collection of youtube videos however.
BT Archive Project - Newly announced detailed perspectives of BT archives.
Privateline - Historical overviews, some documents.
Bell Family Papers - Collections of Bell's personal documents, notebooks, etc.

Geography, Supply Chains, Etc.
Mapping Globalization Online - Mostly compiled results (statistics), little historical evidence.
Atlas of Early Printing - Similar interest, material conditions of communication technology. Not as detailed in terms of production, while including information outside of this scope. Not an archive. Sources are relegated to flat bibliographic listing.
What was there - Popular google map style collection of random (user submitted) photographs overlayed on a map.
Transatlantic slave database
Neatline - Adding geography to Omeka
Map Collections (Old Maps Online, Etc.)

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