Digital History: Mapping

Digital History

For this assignment, I decided to map out sites from some of the primary sources that I have been consulting for work on a major research paper about the Settlement Movement in Philadelphia. I’m not very familiar yet with the geography of Philadelphia, and additionally, some street names and neighborhood layouts have change in the intervening century. Visualizing these sites on a map helps me to orient my subject matter- in this case, which neighborhoods were considered most in need of social aid and where the settlements and affiliated organizations were actually located within those areas.

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Screenshot of Google Map "Gilded Age 'Slums' of Philadelphia" as of March 23, 2017

I’ve compiled the list of places on a Google Map, entitled “Gilded Age ‘Slums’ of Philadelphia.” It is by no means representative of all of the locations of social aid in the city, but it is helpful to spatially plot some points which may aid in later walks around the area or understandings of neighborhood boundaries. I also plotted ward boundaries for the area of Philadelphia that I’m dealing with as they existed in 1893. From a quick glance at the map, it is apparent that a lot of the settlements that I am currently studying (Namely: the Starr Centre, the College Settlement, and the Octavia Hill Association) look like they were located on the borderlines between wards. Two major studies were undertaken of “slum conditions” in areas considered most in need of humanitarian aid- a federal one in 1894, and one sponsored by the Octavia Hill Association in 1904. I think it’s interesting to note their divergence; there is no overlap between the highlighted areas. I’m not yet sure how to utilize this point, but I do think it gives me a greater insight into the subject as a whole for the purposes of writing my thesis.

In a practical sense, as I’m adding to it as I continue my research, the map is really not an ideal resource for anyone besides myself (or someone else very familiar with the institutions and various slum surveys). I have made an effort to include citation details for the sites, but there is little in the way of other interpretation that would make the map accessible to a non-specialist. For instance, I haven’t provided any contextual information about “1904 Dinwiddie sites (study funded by Octavia Hill Association).” I don’t think that Google Maps is the best tool for building a resource that is both illustrative and interpretive. Were I to develop this into a full-blown project, I would probably utilize either Fusion Tables or some other data tables application to pull out the data (coordinates, etc.) and embed it into a site where I could incorporate floating frames to do the interpretive heavy lifting.