Tag Archives: map

Workshop: ESRI Story Maps

As you may remember, I created an ArcGIS Story map for my 5-minute project presentation last week. Although I created it in a rush and it was longer than I had time for, I think story maps can be a good alternative to power point slides depending on what you’re doing and are also a fun way of keeping a journal, so I want to share what I learned in the ESRI Story Map workshop I took with Olivia Ildefonso and Javier Otero Penya.

Olivia told us that ESRI is the leading story mapper right now. They’ve really taken over the market, she said. The cool thing with ESRI is you don’t even need a map to create a story map. You just need pictures. Olivia doesn’t use it for mapping. She uses it for pictures and text.

ESRI is a for-profit company. They offer the story-mapping tool for free. Why use ESRI? Because it’s free and open-sourced. Therefore, if you’re a developer and want to customize it even more you can download it and customize it. You can get code from Github. Furthermore, It’s easy. You don’t have to know how to code or map. You can embed maps if you want but they have to be ESRI maps. You can’t use Carto.com. Now here’s the rub: if you want to create a map with ESRI you have to pay. But there’s a way around this: GCDI has a one-year ESRI interactive map for students. Go chat with GCDI if you want to access that map.

ESRI story maps are like some of the articles we see in the NY Times (this article on Yemen, for example, was built with ESRI or a very similar program).

To build a story map with ESRI, go to https://storymaps.arcgis.com and create an account. Choose the kind of story map you’re going to create. Olivia suggested starting with Cascade. Create a story board before starting creating the story map! Olivia recommends doing it in PPT. Include photos and notes. Videos have to be shared from youtube. This is the story map I built in the workshop.

In it you’ll find notes I took of some of Olivia’s and Javier’s suggestions interspersed with a lot of nonsense I wrote as I feverishly followed Olivia’s directions, and an odd assortment of photos I pulled at random from my files. I like how the little dog becomes the big dog; that was a lucky accident. You’ll figure out how to use ESRI easily if you just dive in and play around.

Make Space for Ghosts: Lauren Klein’s Graphic Visualizations of James Hemings in Thomas Jefferson’s Archive

In “The Image of Absence: Archival Silence, Data Visualization, and James Hemings,” Lauren Klein discusses a letter by Thomas Jefferson to a friend in Baltimore which she accessed through Papers of Thomas Jefferson Digital Edition , a digital archive which makes about 12,000 and “a significant portion” of 25,000 letters from and to Jefferson available to subscribers of the archive. In this letter, Jefferson asks his friend in Baltimore to give a message to his “former servant James” to illustrate how a simple word search would fail to identify that “James” as his former slave James Hemings, the brother of Sally Hemings, Jefferson’s slave and probably mother of five of his children.[1] Drawing our attention to how the “issue of archival silence – or gaps in the archival record – [which remain] difficult to address” in graphic visualization, Klein notes that the historians who built the Jefferson Papers archive added metadata to indicate that the James referred to in the above-mentioned letter was James Hemings [664]. I wonder what the metadata looks like; I wonder whether it provides sources or reflection, and what the extratextual conversation going on at the back end of the archive, if conversation it is, reveals.

While meta-annotation may appear to be a good way to fill the gaps of archival silence, Klein argues that adding scholarship as metadata creates too great a dependence on the choices the author of the archive made. The addition of metadata to the letter to the friend in Baltimore makes me wonder where in the archive metadata was added, where not, and why. Are all the gaps filled? Had metadata not been added to the letter Klein discusses, an analysis of the archive could conclude that Jefferson never makes any mention of James Hemings in the letter he wrote to his friend in Baltimore in 1801 to try to find Hemings, or in the ensuing correspondence between Hemings and Jefferson through Jefferson’s friend, in which Jefferson tries to hire Hemings and Hemings sets terms that were probably not met [667]. A word search in the archive, however, pulls up only inventories of property, documents of manumission, notes about procuring centers of pork and cooking oysters (Hemings was Jefferson’s chef) and finally a letter in which Jefferson asks whether it’s true that Hemings committed suicide [671]. How, asks Klein, do we fill in the gaps between the pieces of information we have? She concludes that we can’t. How do we show the silences then, she asks; how do we extract more meaning from the documents that exist – letters, inventories, ledgers and sales receipts – “without reinforcing the damaging notion that African American voices from before emancipation […] are silent, and irretrievably lost?” [665].

Klein calls for a shift from “identifying and recovering silences” to “animating the mysteries of the past” [665] but not by traditional methods. Instead, Klein says that the fields of computational linguistics and data visualization help make archival silences visible and by doing so “reinscribe cultural criticism at the center of digital humanities work” [665]. Through visualization Klein fills the historical record with “ghosts” and silences, rather than trying to explain away the gaps. The visualizations she creates are both mysterious and compelling, and bear evidence in a way that adding more words does not.

[1]Sarah Sally Hemings (c. 1773 – 1835) was an enslaved woman of mixed race owned by PresidentThomas Jefferson of the United States. There is a “growing historical consensus” among scholars that Jefferson had a long-term relationship with Hemings, and that he was the father of Hemings’ five children,[1] born after the death of his wife Martha Jefferson. Four of Hemings’ children survived to adulthood.[2] Hemings died in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1835. [Wikipedia contributors, “Sarah ‘Sally’ Hemings”]