Columbia, Maryland: Residential Perspectives on the Community’s 50th Birthday
Shaffer, L. Jen
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Planned communities are one way that people have attempted to influence land use patterns and living situations to accommodate specific sociocultural, economic, and environmental needs and desires from the very start of settlement. Columbia, Maryland, a planned community, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017. At its beginning, James Rouse and his planning team used a sociological approach to develop Columbia, and help achieve its original goals, including: the creation of a fully, self-sustaining city where residents could both live and work, respecting and integrating the natural environment into the built environment, sustainably accommodating the future growth of the community, integrating mixed income and racially diverse families, and making a profit. Almost 50 years on, Columbia, via Columbia Association, is interested in understanding the staying power of the original goals as it looks forward and plans for Columbia’s future. In Fall 2015, Columbia Association, PALS (Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability), and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland collaborated to collect oral histories from Columbia’s residents on their experiences of living in the community over the past 50 years. Nine undergraduate students and one graduate student taking ANTH 468O/689O: Researching Environment & Culture, under the direction of Dr. L. Jen Shaffer in the Department of Anthropology, interviewed 28 men and women residents of Columbia. An additional four interviews from Columbia Association’s archives were added to the transcripts of the collected oral histories for further analysis. The analysis of the interview texts explored residents’ experiences of economic, demographic, sociocultural and environmental change over the past 50 years and examined responses to such change in the effort to identify ideas for developing sustainable plans to respond to future changes in Columbia. All audio and video recordings of the oral history interviews are archived at Columbia Archives at Columbia Association.