Enhancing Access through Data Visualization

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Enhancing Access through Data Visualization

2019-07-12 16:28

Anyone who works with HSP’s collections and databases would probably agree: sometimes it can feel like we have too much of a good thing. With millions of records at our fingertips, but often in formats that can be overwhelming, inaccessible, or limiting, what’s the best way to make sense of it all?

Alyson Gamble, a fellow through Drexel’s IMLS-funded program LEADS-4-NDP, is exploring one possible answer this summer: data visualization. Under the supervision of Caroline Hayden, HSP’s director of digital services, Gamble will work in our Public Schools Admission Records database, accessible to Friends of HSP through Encounters. “Visualizing historical data can create connections between different archival collections, and even general concepts that people may not have thought to create before,” says Hayden.

Their work builds off of a project started by 2018 fellow Karen Boyd to make connections and geocode more of the dataset. They will be exploring ways to visualize the demographic data found in this database on a map of Philly, ultimately showing the demographics of families around these historical schools. “A heat map for many students in each school would be a good goal,” Gamble explains.

Gamble is a PhD candidate at Simmons University and works at Harvard University as a research associate with the Harvard Data Science Review. They will work remotely, but had an opportunity to visit HSP briefly in person earlier this summer. “Like many people, I was impressed by the quality and history of the HSP collections,” Gamble says. “I also loved meeting people around the society, all of whom seemed engaged with their work.”

Drexel’s fellowship program aims to connect data science PhD and post-doc candidates with library and humanities projects to show how data science can be successfully applied to this industry.

Gamble’s project is still in its exploratory phase. Read Gamble's own reflections on the LEADS blog, and stay tuned for updates later this season!

Image: The 2019 LEADS cohort, joined by CCI’s Dr. Il-Yeol Song, Dr. Jane Greenberg, OCLC’s Jean Godby, and Project Manager Sam Grabus. Photo courtesy of Drexel University.

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