Showcasing Local Phoenix History: The Park City Mall Project

Showcasing Local Phoenix History: The Park City Mall Project

            At the very end of this past fall semester, Dr. Jacqueline Wernimont asked if I would be interested in participating in the Park Central Mall project as its primary researcher in addition to continuing to contribute as a member of the HASTAC Communications and Digital Content Development team, and I gladly accepted. The Park Central Mall project is one of the first seed projects for the Nexus Digital Research Co-op, and is a collaboration between Arizona State University and local Phoenix developers. Since the beginning of January, we have been exploring archival materials—18 large scrapbooks filled with newspaper articles and photos related to the mall’s development—found in the basement of the Park Central by the new property managers. The School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies (SHPRS) is our main collaborator on this project, with the project lead and principal investigator being Matthew Delmont, director and professor of the SHPRS department. It has been a rewarding process to work alongside Dr. Delmont, Dr. Wernimont, Elizabeth Grumbach (Project Manager for the Nexus Digital Research Co-op in the IHR at ASU), and Leah Newsom (IHR’s Communications Coordinator). Our goal is to look for stories among the materials, collaborate with our public history colleagues as they conduct oral histories, and combine the two via a multimedia presentation using Scalar.

            Park Central was opened in 1957 on land that had previously been a dairy farm, in what used to be the northern borders of the Phoenix area. Upon its development and expansion, the mall would become an integral fixture in the city, as the population boomed from its relatively small size of 60,000 inhabitants, to the bustling metropolis it has become today.

             The materials we have uncovered in the scrapbooks span the late 1950’s through the 1980’s, and they contain cultural events that range from the display of the USAF Martin Titan intercontinental ballistic missile in the mall’s parking lot, to fashion shows, to Native American dances performed by Arizona’s local tribes. Needless to say, the narratives we have been uncovering are fantastic and fascinating! 

            Over the past several months, I have been responsible for reviewing the contents of the Park Central Mall albums, choosing interesting articles and photos that highlight local Phoenix history, helping to develop the documentation of archival procedures for our collaborating Co-op members (regarding how they should document articles and photos of interest within the albums), and disseminating information and promoting updates regarding the project on Twitter and Instagram. You can follow our project developments via the Twitter account, Instagram account, and Nexus Digital Co-op website.

            Our colleague, Dr. Kristine Navarro of the SHPRS department, will lead the collection of local oral histories in the Phoenix Area, the next of which will take place at Phoenix Public Library on April 7th. Meanwhile, this month we will begin our next step by uploading the over 200 photos we have taken of these captivating narratives into Scalar, and I look forward to posting about this process in future HASTAC blogs!

            Several local news crews came to the Nexus space to report on the Park Mall Project. Check out their reports: ABC News and Fox News 10. Our local radio station, KJZZ, also stopped by, check out their report here!

*Photo credit: Elizabeth Grumbach