For my long-term project this semester, I’m revisiting some of the data and source material about jazz and music-hall performances in Paris during the 1920s. At first, I just wanted to tie up lose ends- although I finished a jazz venues map, I still have a lot of event data and pictures from specific performances that didn’t end up being incorporated into any finished product at the end of the summer. However, in light of recent discussions we’ve had in class, I’m re-evaluating exactly what my maps should look like.
During the summer, I envisioned a chronological pin-drop map, in which a user could watch dots representing specific performances appear and disappear over time, and could click on specific points to see a photo or descriptive information about that event. However, I ran into some problems with this idea that I never really found a way to solve. For example, venues ran performances all-night, every night, so any substantive “change over time” would have been difficult to see. Additionally, there would have been a high volume of very similar events, which means that exploring the individual pins could have been quite repetitive.
Moving forward, I have a different idea about how to display my research on a map. I want my priority to be descriptive or embedded media, which means that every event is not going to be represented. Rather than choosing events arbitrarily, I’m thinking of making maps with more narrow topics. For example, one Timeline JS-type map could follow Josephine Baker around to the different venues where she took up a performing residencies in Paris and beyond. (If I did this for another artist as well, the ArcGIS Storymap tool could make comparison between the two very straightforward). This would lower the number of data points that the user has to contend with, and it means that I could focus my efforts on embedding media and primary sources like photos of costumes or set pieces, program covers, newspaper reviews, or archival video/sound clips. I’m also looking forward to exploring the possibilities of presenting this kind of information in Omeka Neatline, since it is designed for this more exhibition-based/curatorial approach.
One idea I’m still struggling with is the question of whether a this kind of map really reveals anything significant through its geographic presentation of venues and locations. As our recent conversation with GIS specialist Diana Sinton revealed, simply plotting points on a map doesn’t necessarily illustrate any significant relationship with space or geography beyond the street address of the venue. Moving forward, it’s important to keep asking ourselves, “What about putting this on a map (as opposed to presenting information in a different way) reveals new insights or provokes new questions?”