Grandinetti creates Ash Park walking audio tour

Dani Grandinetti ’21 learned a lot about Cornell’s hometown, Mount Vernon, Iowa, for her Cornell Summer Research Institute (CSRI) project with Professor of History Catherine Stewart.

“Mount Vernon is one of the most unique communities I’ve ever been in,” Grandinetti said. “It’s not necessarily often you find a small, rural Iowa town with this mix of very passionate people.”

You could find Stewart and Grandinetti on any given day in one of the many historic houses near campus chatting with homeowners as part of their work to create an audio walking tour of the Ash Park Historic District.

“It’s a Historic District in Mount Vernon,” Grandinetti explained. “It’s near the football field, not far from Cornell. It essentially has a lot of early 20th century, late 19th century homes in it.”

Grandinetti researched the history at the city archives and spoke with past and current homeowners of seven different houses that will be featured on the tour. They discussed everything from hidden doors to artifacts and even historic plants.

This walking audio tour is the final piece of a three-phase, collaborative project with the Mount Vernon Historic Preservation Commission, Cornell, and the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group to make information about Mount Vernon’s three historic districts more accessible to the public. Part of that included an audio walking tour and website featuring 11 historic Cornell buildings, created by two students during CSRI 2016. Grandinetti’s work on Ash Park is the final piece of the project.

Stewart says she’s impressed with Grandinetti’s ability to reach out to the residents and conduct oral history interviews.

“She’s very interested in pursuing a graduate program and getting a Master of Library and Information Science … I think this opportunity will stand her in good stead and really help her be competitive in terms of getting into some of the better graduate programs because of this type of experience working with the digital humanities, doing research in the archives, and then having the opportunity to craft a historical narrative for a wider public.”

Students are expected to add the finishing touches on the websites and audio tours over the coming months with an expectation that it will be available for the public to experience in the fall.

This is just one example of the many research projects going on for CSRI, for others visit cornellcollege.edu/research.