Telling Stories with Maps

Posted on July 18, 2012


Maps can give us an account of history.  Points plotted on a map can give us insight into where certain battles were fought, who fought whom, and who won.  But maps, according to the Scholars’ Lab at University of Virginia Libraries, are not neutral.    MarketMAPS, a leading map publisher, looks at a new mapping tool launched by the Scholars Lab that attempts to reveal the full story that exists behind the historical. 


Many mapping tools exist that allow you to create maps that display ‘big data.’  But what about maps that display nuance, subtlety, and uncertainty?  This was the task that the Scholars’ Lab took to: creating a mapping application that allowed for a unique story-telling experience.  Using historical maps, timelines, and short text pieces, the online tools developed by the Lab (called Neatline) allow users to contextualize their unique cultural materials while reading deeply into their nuances.  Neatline is a series of add-on tools for Omeka (the software developed by another university digital humanities shop) that opens new possibilities for interactive spatial and temporal interpretation.


Scholars’ Lab staff produced a number of Neatline demos for launch. One is an exploration of the Civil War battle of Chancellorsville as seen in an annotated historic map. Another project explores author H.P. Lovecraft’s hometown of Providence, RI through his letters and a map of the Providence he experienced while creating his own phantasmagorical landscapes. Both are fluid, sliding you back and forth through time and space while an interpretive voice helps illuminate what the map means and can mean.

Bethany Nowviskie, director of the Scholar’s Lab claims that “the cumulative effect [of Neatline] is a very hand-crafted feel—which is good, because we wanted to push a little against the sense that digital maps and timelines are only for passive, dense, algorithmically-generated data visualization—created by somebody else, not you.”

Individuals want their maps to reflect the data that is important to them.  MarketMAPS creates custom maps using the most accurate and up-to-date data.  Offering maps, digital maps, map books, and wall maps, each custom map reflects the data that is important to the client.  You can select the area and details you want displayed on your custom map.  You can also add demographics, important locations, and sales data.


Contact MarketMAPS today and discover how our custom maps can help you better represent the data that is important to you. 

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