Tag: Scholars Lab

Is this promised end…Or just a foretaste of it?*

* King Lear (V, iii)

It has been a mad dash toward deadlines with many obstacles confronted, and thankfully, most overcome.

Much of the difficulty arose with our efforts to mount the project on the Omeka platform (designed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media) in order to use the Neatline plugin (designed by the Scholars Lab at  UVA) to feature interactive historical maps. The maps are especially fundamental to this project. Had we decided upon Omeka early on, we would have had ample time to learn about the platform, select a versatile theme, tinker with it, and present the project in a way that mirrored the depth of information and the web of connections between cemetery occupants and the city. Both platform and plugin are a little tricky for a novice, and Neatline lacks substantial user documentation.

Another stumbling block was the unforeseen complexity of creating a small piece of software that would serve the technical goals of the project: the JSON standard.

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is a lightweight data-interchange format that is relatively simple to generate from a database, and that is excellent for organizing geodata for web-based tools and visualizations.  Although not critical to the visualizations we wanted to create, the software development is a major aspect of the project. Why?

Necropolis is more than a visualization of a cemetery’s history. We wanted it to serve a dual purpose, as both a data management toolbox, and, in the immediate term, a demonstration of what can be done with such data.

With extensive research, and the resources that were made available to us, we created a structured data set (aka a spreadsheet) representing all the records we had. This included both biographical information data on the plot conditions.


A spreadsheet like this, fed into the Necropolis JSON interface, would create a series of files suitable for information management, interactive maps, and other kinds of visualizations.













Taylor worked assiduously to create the JSON tool for Necropolis. Eventually, we plan to make it a handy widget. Because all of us need widgets. Perhaps the dead need widgets most of all.

The Necropolis JSON tool