Part of this summer project is looking at our data from the January H.T. Burleigh and figuring out what the next steps are in interpreting this data. For an example of a similar mapping exercise, check out this post about my attempts to understand the race of performers who sang Burleigh’s music, and how that data set transferred onto a 1920’s census map that showed the percentage of the black population by county. This project I worked on stems from a question about what venues meant during Burleigh’s performance career. How often was Burleigh performing in churches? How often was he performing for societies or clubs? The simple answer is that Burleigh performed the most in churches according to our data, some 120 times. Part of that number is influenced by his work at St. George’s in New York of which we have recorded 60 or so performances, which is not even close to the entirety of his long career.
Another question we had was how to represent venue as opposed to the sponsorship of a concert. For example, if a benefit concert was held for Howard University, but the concert took place in a church which of those two pieces of information is more important? For the purposes of this map, we decided to sort by sponsorship, if it was listed, instead of strictly by location. This tactic wasn’t perfect for a few reasons, including the fact that our data is incomplete and really the map is showing a combination of factors instead of uniform categories. Nevertheless, this was the system we settled upon.
The symbols are divided into 5 categories: Society/Club Sponsor, School/University Sponsor, Religious Sponsor, Private Home/Sponsor, and Performance Hall. These categories covered almost all of our data except for the “Alternate Location” category which includes parks, parades, and locations that we didn’t have precise venues for.
Here is the web app for the prior version of Burleigh Performance locations that isn’t sorted whatsoever, Burleigh is symbolized by the blue dot. The nice thing about this map is that it doesn’t prioritize any location over another, and doesn’t claim any significance to the venue.
Here is the symbolized map which is nice in that it provides an immediate area of focus, venue type, and that it encourages a bit more comparison between data points.
Moving forward, I anticipate making more of these types of maps that are narrowly focused (just Burleigh’s performances) and in turn simpler to navigate. As we wrap up our summer, I can say that the emphasis of this work should lie in context with writings of the time, placing Burleigh alongside his contemporaries and the complex racial framework during his career rather than an aggregation of data points. This doesn’t mean that maps are the wrong way to demonstrate what we have learned, but rather our project requires a 4-part arrangement of sorts, each voice filling in the space that the others leave open.