Mapping Harry

02 May 2014

Posted by scott

We've always kinda figured, from the beginning, that it would be useful to have some kind of geographic representation of Harry's whereabouts over time. But it hasn't been a terribly high priority, and I, for one, have been dreading being asked to figure out the technology that would make this possible; I don't really know the first thing about mapping. Fortunately, no-one told any of Naomi's students about my dread, and one of them is curious about Harry's travels. So, away we go.

Of course, we've been encoding every place he mentions with the TEI <placeName> element. But we haven't even begun to consider making anything like a placeography (such a clanky word), much less figure out how to turn placeNames into pushpins. A little research, though, yielded a method that's good enough to get us started.

It's no big deal to extract a list of all the placeNames in the diary along with the date and page number of the corresponding entry. But how to turn such a list into, say, a meaningful Google map? I figured there really should be a way to get city names automagically converted into latitude/longitude information (I'm OK with asking undergraduates to do some tedious work, but manual latitude/longitude lookup exceeds my threshold). And there is: the website happily accepts spreadsheets with columns headed with 'city', state', etc, and as many custom columns as you like, and it produces a Google map with each place marked and labeled -- here is a crude test of the first 10 placeNames in the diary.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Naomi's student produces with this; perhaps the next step will be to drop this data into a GIS system like QGIS (the free/open-source alternative to proprietary/expensive tools like ArcGIS).