Final draft Visualization – Part 1: Recap

 
This blog will be in two parts. In this first part, I will summarize what I have done so far and refer back to previous blogs as I have gone along this process of figuring out how to visualize some part of the project I am still thinking through and that will be my final thesis project.

The idea is to use technology to enhance research and discover something new using visualization techniques. Considering my ultimate project of creating a completely open source, collaborative, and crowd sourced cemetery database, I had hoped to have more commentary as I went along on this blog. But since I plan to continue to work on this over the next year, hopefully people will find it and comment.

My first goal was to map all the cemeteries in one area – I chose Mad River, Champaign Co., OH because I have spent a lot of time doing genealogy research in the area. (See my family history blog both here on AOM and my previous blog on Blogger.) I tried several different programs, but none did exactly what I had in mind. I ultimately settled on plain old Google Maps, because they recently changed things so you can upload a spreadsheet of information and I thought that might be useful. So I tried it, even before I had my spreadsheet fully finished. You can see how that worked out on my blog from March 13, 2014.

Since that didn’t really seem to turn out to be what I wanted, I decided truly what I wanted was to be able to take the multiple historic maps that I have used in my research, and layer them over a map that indicated where the cemeteries are located now. Many families, like my own, owned property that spilled over the county line between Champaign and Clark counties. I also wanted to see how many of the cemeteries that currently have place names (ie. those that Google Maps actually recognizes without me having to label them. Many of them are listed in the Ohio gazetteer) occurred on property that was owned by someone with the same name. I had a hunch all of them were named after an original land owner. I still want to accomplish this, but what I found out about that process is that it is excruciatingly time consuming, has a huge learning curve that I do not have the time for right now, and will take extra time for the web site to load and maybe that is not ideal for short-attention span blog readers. I have a feeling I will have to take a class on GIS at some point to try to figure this all out. I did learn some things about the cemetery names just from comparing the historic maps to my digital map. You can read about that on my blog from March 16, 2014. I’m still working on some of that as I continue to research those two cemeteries.
Anyway, besides those drawbacks, I also feel like that approach doesn’t address the purpose of the project – to find a visualization that is representative of a larger whole. In other words, what can I do to visualize something small that I can do anywhere? Using historic maps to see if there are cemeteries on the property of a person the cemetery is named after is fine for Champaign and Clark counties in Ohio, but what about other places? Can I do that in Arizona? Maybe, but it’s not going to be quite as effective.

Then I thought I would try to show change over time somehow. You can see my thoughts on this on my blog from March 20, 2014. I was trying to figure out how to show that with maps. I tried to learn to use Omeka and Neatline to do some mapping, but just installing both required a ton of coding knowledge that I don’t have, and help from my husband. (He is the best!!!) We managed to load up both, and successfully wiped out my WordPress blog in the process. Luckily, he figured out how to fix it when I discovered it the next day. Unfortunately right now I don’t have the time to learn to code. Maybe over the summer!

So while the “change over time” angle might work for any area, and I might explore this option some more, I still struggled with the issue of so what? What does this have to do with a crowd sourced database of cemetery information? Who will care? In asking these questions and thinking about Findagrave, which does a little of what I am hoping to do with my project, I thought about relationships. Relationships are at the heart of Findagrave–both the relationships of the deceased AND the relationships of the people making the memorials on Findagrave. Findagrave links people to their spouses and children, and recently added the ability to see someone’s siblings on their page. Since the relationships seem to always get people in a tizzy, I think being able to map relationships would be a good visualization. I went back to my original blog of March 13, 2014 (see link above) and decided I would give NodeXL a try again. This time I figured out how to use it properly!  See my blog from this morning. I think I am on the right track.

I tried to use Manyeyes from IBM to see what their network relationship analysis looked like, but every time I’ve tried (this is the second time) it won’t load Java and says the site is insecure. Even when I ignore that, it still won’t load anything. It’s too frustrating and I don’t even know if it’s going to look any better than what NodeXL does.

Essentially my final draft is a combination of traditional mapping and relationship network analyses. I chose to focus on just two cemeteries, the Shaffer and Zerkle cemeteries, only because as you will see, NodeXL will not work with anything much larger, and even though these two cemeteries have under 30 burials, there are over twice that in relationships mapped out, making them almost unreadable. I really need a program that will allow me to show multiple cemeteries and the relationships between them.  Part Two will go into more detail and show you the visualizations.
 
 

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 30th, 2014 at 9:18 pm and is filed under Public History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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