Jessica Mack

Mellon Seminar: Jessica Mack

January 22, 2024 - 12:00pm

The University from Above: Mapping Mexico City with Archival Aerial Imagery  


Aerial photography has historically been used as a technology of war, surveillance, and the promotion of large development projects. Despite these original purposes, however, archival aerial imagery and digital mapping methods can also allow us to document historical processes that have been omitted from traditional archival sources. This project applies georectification to aerial imagery of Mexico City to better understand the 1950s campus construction for the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the stories of communities that lived in this region before the campus was built. Visualizing the university from above helps us understand the social landscape of construction and the many publics both within and outside of the institution that were affected by it. This project offers tools to think through other university histories and reckon with questions of exclusion, displacement, community engagement, and memorialization on many campuses today.


Jessica Mack
is a historian and assistant professor of digital history at Rowan University. She specializes in digital public history, Latin American history, and the history of higher education. Her current book project, ​Building University City: Knowledge, Power, and Publics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, examines the campus construction for Mexico's national university (UNAM) in mid-twentieth-century Mexico City. She uses archival aerial imagery and digital methods to spatially analyze this campus building project and the politics of land surrounding it. Her digital scholarship focuses on uses of digital technology in the historical research process and multilingual digital humanities. At Rowan, she is a founding co-director of the new Center for Digital Humanities Research and organizer of the annual Douglass Day Transcribe-a-thon. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, she was a co-Principal Investigator on grant-funded digital history projects such as Mapping the Un​iversity and education lead on bilingual training content for the archival research management software Tropy. Mack is the creator of In​to the Archive, an open-access asynchronous online course on historical research methods. She holds a PhD in History from Princeton University and a BA in History from Wesleyan University.