Text Analysis of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

ematelski (7)
voyant (4)
Using Voyant/Text Analysis, Students investigate how various “witnesses” reported on and recorded the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911.


In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City caught fire, resulting in the deaths of 146 workers, mostly immigrant women. Because of the national attention this event received, historians today have access to a vast number of primary sources in the form of official reports, court trial transcripts, newspaper accounts, and oral histories of witnesses. In this assignment, students pose a research question about this event and employ the textual analysis tool Voyant to explore the resources that recorded this moment in American urban, industrial, gender, and immigration history. 

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HST201 Contemporary Approaches to History , Spring 2019

voyant (4)


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Outcome summary

Students were largely successful with this assignment. Providing an opportunity to play with a pre-made corpus in-class provided them with hands-on experience prior to having to create their own corpus. Providing students with the primary sources that had already been converted into word docs compatible with Voyant also eliminated two problems 1) students finding the sources and 2) challenges of converting a .pdf to a .doc The sources were saved into individual files--individual oral testimony, individual newspaper account, etc. Many students, rather than combining these sources together to make a larger data set, compared individual documents. When next I teach this assignment, I will be more explicit about them needing to create larger data sets from the individual files. Word Clouds were the most utilized output. Stronger essays experimented with the Trends output wherein they provided their own searchable terms to identify frequency of appearance.



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