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Mapping and Spatial Analysis

This module explores how to read and make maps with spatial data.


  1. Increased understanding of the ways maps are generated and the differences between space and place.
  2. Ability to georectify a historic map.
  3. Ability to build a simple map using a free online tool (Carto).


Questions to Consider

  • What “translations” (to use Knowles’s term) are involved in the creation of data in your field?
  • How effective is the spatial narrative presented by Knowles in her article on Gettysburg? How intuitive is the interface, and how well does it communicate the information discussed in the explanatory paragraphs?
  • Think about the various types of “space” that White discusses. What examples of absolute and non-absolute spaces are present in your work and your field?
  • Hillier contrasts static, illustrative maps with layered, database-driven GIS visualizations. Are there examples of GIS scholarship in your field? How does their use of spatial visualization differ from the standard illustrative map?
  • If you are interested in a spatial project, think about the data you have or want to collect and whether it is geographic or conceptual data (refer to White above). What are the specific data points you would need to represent for a spatial analysis? How would a spatial or geographic representation of data answer questions, or raise new ones, related to your work? What errors and uncertainties would you need to acknowledge or represent?


  • A series of short essays titled “What is the Spatial Turn?” by Jo Guldi offers overviews of the spatial turn and spatial work in the following fields: anthropology, psychology, architecture, religion, literature, art history, sociology, and history. The work is part of a larger project called Spatial Humanities, hosted by the University of Virginia, which aims to document and contextualize two institutes’ efforts to enable geospatial scholarship.
  • Lincoln Mullen’s “Working with Spatial Data” explains kinds of spatial data (vector vs. raster, lines, points, and polygons) and commonly used projections in large-scale map images. For those who are comfortable working in the command line, there is an exercise on manipulating spatial data using the command line GDAL/OGR set of tools.


Activity 1:

Learn how to stretch maps, which are visual representations of places, to be geographically accurate using Map Warper with this tutorial: https://labs.ssrc.org/dds/articles/map-warper-tutorial/.

Activity 2:

Follow this tutorial for reading and creating thematic data maps using the online tool Carto: https://labs.ssrc.org/dds/articles/data-maps-and-carto-tutorial/.

Review the following questions to help plan your mapping or spatial project.

Project Lens

Take a look at the Pleiades project, created and maintained by the Ancient World Mapping Center and Institute for the Study of the Ancient World: https://pleiades.stoa.org/.

  • What is the purpose of this mapping project? Why is this type of project important for scholars and students of the ancient worlds? What kind of data drives the project and is that data available for others to use? Who has created the data available in Pleiades?
  • You can find some hints in the summary of this project: https://labs.ssrc.org/dds/articles/project-lens-pleiades/.
Updated on August 1, 2018

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