Poor Farm Project


The Butler County Poor House, also known as the County Home or Poor Farm, was opened on 25 Oct 1900 to accept the homeless and infirm who were unable to provide for themselves. It was reorganized in 1963 as Sunnyview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The Stewards (superintendents) maintained various records, which were aptly called “Steward’s Register of the Names of Paupers Admitted to the Butler County Poor House.”

The admission records commenced in 1900, with the opening of the Poor House, and end in 1963. Additionally, every three months a Census of residents was entered into the Register. Consequently, residents were recorded at the time of admission and in each quarterly Census during their stay. While most people were from Butler County, neighboring counties also placed residents at the Poor House. (description from the Genealogy page of Butler Area Public Library website)


To digitize select historical census records of the Butler County Poor Farm, make them available to researchers, and interpret the history of the farm and the people who lived there for a public audience.


Students will work in four teams – Transcription, Data Analysis Storytelling, and Design/Aesthetics – to accomplish separate but interrelated aspects of the project.
Each team will be responsible for drafting a team contract that assigns tasks and responsibilities. Each will also receive specific training and consultation sessions with Dr. Cowan. Teams have varying due dates based on necessary scaffolding of the project.

Students are expected to engage in this effort with professionalism and dedication to producing work at the highest standard possible.

TeamTasksDue date(s)
Transcription-Attend transcription training session (Date: TBA)
-Earn 100% on transcription quiz 
-Transcribe at least 2 sets (men and women) of census data
-Proofread at least 2 sets of census data entered by someone else
-Assist other teams as test users
Thursday, 4/8
Data Analysis and VisualizationIndividual
-Analyze data from transcribed records, drawing on similar studies as potential models
-Draft historical questions relevant to the data; adapt copy of data as needed
-Create at least 3 unique data visualizations (may include charts, graphs, maps, etc.) illustrating historically meaningful patterns, trends, etc.

-Select visualizations from group member’s efforts to share in Omeka site
-Draft brief interpretive text to provide context and analysis of the visualizations
Thursday, 4/15

Thursday, 4/22
-Read at least 3 secondary sources from shared Zotero library on poorhouses/farms and relief aid in early 20th-century America
-Review Butler Poor Farm primary source collection on Google Drive
-Write blog post sharing what you’ve learned about poor farms and the Butler poor farm specifically to your personal blog. Post in shared Slack space for fellow group members.

-Review existing narrative/exhibit pages Poor Farms in American Culture and Poor Farm History; make notes and suggestions for revision and improvement
-Revise existing narrative material on the site to improve organization, storytelling, readability
-Add 1 new collaboratively-planned exhibit utilizing polished text, rich media resources, and digital tools where appropriate (example: TimelineJS or Neatline)
Thursday, 4/15

Thursday, 4/22

Design, Aesthetics & UX Group
-Research best practices for web design, including use of color, white space, typefaces, etc.
-Communicate with Storytelling team to assess needs or impact of design choices
-Improve site’s aesthetics and user experience in consultation with Dr. Cowan
-Design and perform user testing
-Insure compatibility with web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG)
Thursday, 4/22