Online Historical Mapping

            Online Historical Geographic Information System or GIS is a revolutionary idea and has many benefits to researchers.  It amplifies the magnitude of data and gives the viewer a better understanding of the topic and the problem.  The maps still have a ways to go and there is a plethora of information that could be mapped out.  My personal experience with using a historical GIS was at the website Digital Harlem which depicted a major crime problem in Harlem, New York from 1915 to 1930.  The statistics were startling and the mapping makes one truly realize the magnitude in which people in Harlem had to fear for their lives.  All one has to do is pick a crime and use the subcategories to narrow their search. 

            This website is a great prototype for what can be done in the future.  The website does have a couple problems including failing to load every statistic and needing to restart the webpage.  If this website expands all the way to present day Harlem, I also feel it could be a more useful source of data.  The twenty year timespan is interesting, but definitely only benefits a small amount of people.  If one was to explore the improvement in security in Harlem a great source would be the mapping from 1915 to at least 2000.

            I also took a look at Mapping the Republic of letters which took a different way of portraying history.  The creator of this website has several charts and maps to tell the story of important historical figures.  For example, when looking at Benjamin Franklin, one can see how frequently he sent letters and which month he sent out the most letters.  We can also tell where a majority of letters went and can start to paint a picture of Franklin’s life by only looking at this information.  This can make curious viewers want to read more about Benjamin Franklin and create a new enthusiasm for the topic.

            We should continue building these interactive maps to display history in a new light.  These projects can be very time consuming, but rewarding because the information will help thousands understand history and the extent of an issue.  Both of these websites have different styles to portray historical events, but no one website is better than another.  They both are crucial to keep the interest of viewers for history and gives a new look to information.

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