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While doing my research on my first blogpost, I fell upon a really interesting project hold at the Stanford University. This project is called the Spatial History Project and is hold at the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis.

For this project, they work in a collaborative way using visualization as key point. As they begin their projects, they start with defining a precise goal for each research and then goes into mining relevant data from libraries, archives …  Then, they organize all the datas they found in a geospatial database and use a visual analysis to identify trends/patterns and oddities. This allows them to study mostly, as seen on their website, geo-historical events. But as I believe, a few examples are better than a thousand words.

As first example, let’s take the “Trail of blood” project where they wanted to study the dynamics of the business of butchery in San Francisco.  In order to do this, they went through business records and looked for butcheries. They found that being pretty concentrated at the beginning, these commerce had the tendency of spreading out through the city (at the beginning, they were located just in the old quarters of San Francisco). In order to place all the point they got, they used some georectified GIS data to plot the city and the butcheries. As it is possible to see in their publication, they have drawn some “animations” where it is possible to follow the evolution of the butcheries through time on a map.

This is the kind of maps they based themselves upon in order to compute the borders.

There is another current project called “Animal city” which is based on this one and wants to plot all the “animals locations” in San Francisco in the nineteenth century with again maps allowing to see the evolution of those retails, places through time. But as they say, a major hinderance in both studies is that chinese people didn’t put their business on the official lists, which makes this visualization kind of unsatisfactory as not all place are shown but only the one of westerners.

As it is possible to see, they try to focus on visual representation of periods, that means by adding the dimension of time to their representations. This point is shown in a particular good way in their “Building the New Order : 1938-1945” publication where they have a visualization of the creation and destruction of countries and which was the base for another visualization plotting the creation and destruction of SS concentration camps during World War II. All the data used for this article are free to access as this lab works on a “shared-knowledge” basis and are available here.

This figure shows how they decided to visualize their project.

I found this project pretty interesting because it allows to show to people on a more visual way the history of our world, it is more accessible to the people not instructed in the ways of History and reading “boring” text ! It is a great way to share the knowledge in an understandable way with unique graphical support. Furthermore this project uses a lot of complicated techniques such as GIS for example or even programming in order to do those visualization (which might be pretty time consuming also !)

For those interested, they are much more topic worth a look such as:

The history of chinese immigration in Canada

The Yellow fever epidemic in Rio in 1850

– …

You can find loads of interesting visualization here and I really encourage you to go and see some of them as a personal enrichment ! You will find that it goes from history to biology, passing by architecture and much much more !

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