UR receives $250K NIH grant for redlining research

Rob Nelson will explore racially motivated housing and health inequities

Free Press staff report | 3/16/2023, 6 p.m.
Robert K. Nelson, director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond, has been awarded nearly $250,000 from ...

Robert K. Nelson, director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Rich- mond, has been awarded nearly $250,000 from the National Institutes of Health to study the impact of redlining — racially-motivated lending discrimination — on health inequalities. This sub-award is part of a five-year project at the University of Michigan.

The DSL team, led by Dr. Nelson, will create spatial data for industrial, commercial, and residential sites using

area descriptions pulled from the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation and Sanborn maps, which are detailed maps of U.S. cities and towns in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Our lab will provide historical expertise, analyze the data, and develop the study’s conclusions,” Dr. Nelson said. “Our team includes UR student researchers, who will help collect data and add images to the Sanborn maps through the mapping technique of georeferencing.”

Dr. Nelson, head of digital engagement in University of Richmond’s Boatwright Memorial Library, is the editor of American Panorama: An Atlas of United States History. Dr. Nelson teaches courses on digital humanities and slavery. He was awarded the 2019 Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History from the American Historical Association and recently received a grant to support the development of an expanded, third version of the award-winning “Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America” project, which frequently is used by journalists and scholars studying and investigating redlining.