Telephonic Supplychains Projectideas

Matthew Hockenberry

The Far Corners of the Earth

I'm interested in the possibility of exploring a digital humanities interactive site focusing on the supply chain of the telephone as described by the more comprehensive materials Western Electric published in 1927 and 1935. In response to the increased production of the telephone, and the increased marketing that accompanied, the company put out a large number of materials directly related to the manufacturing details of the phones they were producing at the time ("candlestick" style phones in the early 20s to later models in the mid 30s). These materials directly relate the material, geographic, and social conditions of telephone production - material that is difficult to obtain for most products. This includes a number of educational pamphlets, trade journal publications, and advertisements. The information as presented could be reinterpreted, digitized directly, and cataloged. Some of the material include specially comissioned photos of various parts of production (from silk farming to cotton production). An interactive digital map of the material would allow exploration of the supply chain from a geographic perspective, although direct digitization is also possible.

Locating the Telephone

This project would explore creating a digital collection of materials related to the geographic and social positioning of the telephone in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Archival materials related to the production and distribution of the telephone tend to be difficult to access. Many of the materials remain in corporate archives with difficult access policies, while others are distributed through various museums and archival collections in the federal system. Much of this material has not been made directly available, with a few key exceptions (Bell's papers, records of patent disputes, etc.). Collecting this material into a singular collection would be difficult, given the diverse number and nature of insitutions involved. A digital collection of the material, however, would make it possible to explore records related to telephone manufacture and production that cuts across a large number of institutional boundaries. This material includes trade catalogues, advertisements, journal publications, technical drawings, purchase orders, and similar documents.

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