How to Create Your Own Maps

When I was studying geography at university I enjoyed creating my own maps using ArcGIS software.  However, I thought my days of creating maps were over when I finished my course and no longer had access to the software.  Fortunately I did the boot camp at the THAT Camp in Canberra last year where Paul Hagon showed us how to create maps through Google Fusion Tables.  How exciting!  In this post I will share with you how I created a basic map of some 2011 Australian census data so hopefully you too can experience the joys of basic map making.

The point of this exercise was to help me learn more about making maps and to explore some of the data available from the 2011 census and the datasets that Australian governments have made available on  I wanted to hone my skills in pulling together data from disparate sources, manipulating the data and mapping it.

The first map that I wanted to create would depict the number of school aged children (those in the 6-18 age group) as a proportion of the total population.  I wanted to concentrate on the Melbourne metropolitan area and its’ Local Government Areas (LGAs).  I needed the following data:

  • a shape file that showed LGA boundaries for Melbourne in .kml format;
  • the number of children aged 6-18 for each LGA; and
  • the total population in each LGA. Continue reading

THAT Camp for Digital Humanities Beginners

If you are new to digital humanities and want to learn more you definitely should attend a THAT Camp!  I travelled to Canberra to attend a THAT Camp for the first time on the weekend.  It was a wonderful weekend meeting people who I follow on Twitter, learning sooo much new stuff, being involved in stimulating conversations about issues in digital humanities and socialising.  I have much to follow up, a ton of new things to learn.  As one of the participants, Abigail Belfrage, so aptly observed on Twitter, “still in anaconda state after ingesting the goat that was #thatcamp canberra. will digest over the next few months…”

Will you feel out of your depth at times being a newbie at a THAT Camp?  Yes you will, but how can you learn if you are not stretched?  We had a boot camp the day before the conference started and it was well worth investing the extra day to learn new tools and consolidate previous learning.  I have lots of things to follow up, but the thing that really excited me was discovering Google Fusion Tables for the first time.  I don’t have access to GIS software at the moment but through Google Fusion Tables I can now create maps of data.  Mmmm, the possibilities….  A big thanks to Paul Hagon for taking many of the sessions I attended – I learned heaps!

THAT Camp Canberra was all that it claimed to be – collaborative, participatory, free of ego, a place to learn, friendly and fun.  These qualities were encouraged because THAT Camp is an ‘unconference’.  How did the ‘unconference’ model work at THAT Camp Canberra?  Firstly unconferences do not have a call for papers or a pre-determined programme.  Participants were asked to propose session ideas before the conference via the conference website.  At the first session of the conference the people who proposed the sessions gave a brief overview of what their topic was about.  There was also room for people to propose new ideas for sessions.  The conference organisers scheduled the topics, assigned rooms to them and wrote it all up on a whiteboard in the foyer of the venue.  We were all set to go!

Skills for Digital Humanities

I’ll cover the details of the sessions that I attended in other posts, but it is relevant in this introductory post to share what was said at the session looking at the skills required for digital humanities.  Suse Cairns summed up what we need to equip us in the field of digital humanities when she tweeted, “Attitude is a hugely important part in digital humanities upskilling. Willingness to experiment, play and get hands dirty.” (Of course an important feature of the conference was the #THATCamp backchannel on Twitter.)  As Tim Sherratt said, “show your working, share, be prepared to fail, display your thinking process”.  Digital Humanities is about experimentation and everyone, from beginners to leaders in the world of digital humanities, have to be prepared to confront what they don’t know, to make mistakes, to shout out for help.  Collaboration, learning and creativity is what it is about.  When we embark on the digital humanities journey we don’t have to have the skills, we have to have the right attitude.  This fits into the current employment market where increasingly people are not hired for specific skills, they are hired because they are trainable and can fit into a team. Continue reading

Digital Humanities – the First Steps

After I finished my thesis at the end of last year, I used my free time to start exploring the world of digital humanities.  I started out my professional life as an accountant and as part of our university degree back in the 1980s we were required to do programming in COBOL, dabble with databases (structured, not relational!) and we were exposed to spreadsheets in the days before excel.  In year 12 at school I did computer studies which included a fair amount of programming in Basic.  Throughout my career in accounting and later working in public relations, I have had to work with spreadsheets, databases etc, but I have not done any programming since the 1980s.

Then I went back to university and studied history.  I was astonished. Continue reading

Delving Deeper into Trove

In my spare time over the last few weeks, I have been experimenting with the tools developed by Tim Sherratt to extract data from Australian digitised newspapers available through Trove. In a previous post I discussed how we can produce graphs showing the frequency of the use of particular words in Australian newspapers over time using Sherratt’s tools.  In this post I will look at other methods of text analysis and explain how I used Sherratt’s tools to extract a large number of articles from the Trove database and used a text analysis tool to further analyse the articles. This post is about possibilities, not conclusions.  It is a work-in-progress, so I am keen to hear your suggestions and experiences. Continue reading

Know Your Database

First published on my other blog 17/4/2011

Over the last week I finally got a chance to try out the tools that Wragge (aka Tim Sherratt) has devised to mine digitised historic Australian newspapers accessed through Trove. This post is about the results of applying his tools.  If you want to do this yourself check out Wragge’s posts, Mining the Treasures of Trove (Part 1) and (Part 2). Firstly let’s look at Wragge’s graph of a topic that I have been writing about this year – floods.

Graph of the occurrence of the word "flood" in Australian newspapers, from the early 19th century to the late 1950s

Wragge has produced the graph above  showing the occurrence of the word “floods” in Australian newspapers digitised and accessible on the Trove website.  As we would expect the word is mentioned more in years when there was severe flooding such as 1893. Continue reading

Backup, Backup, Backup!

First published on my other blog 20/12/2010.
external hard disc drive surrounded by clouds

Essential backup devices: external hard disc and the Cloud,

Computer backup is vital.  This was brought home to me when we suffered the Great Perkins Computer Glitch of 2010.  Every computer directory that contained my work for the last year disappeared, including all my research for my thesis.  Yes, it vanished!  I was having trouble opening a directory; we left it to watch a movie and when we came back we could not see or access a single file.  Fortunately my other half, Hubble, had set up not one, but two backup systems.  Now we were to find out how good our backup systems really were…. Continue reading

Digital History

First published on my other blog 19/11/2010
Person looking at Trove Australian Newspapers online on laptop

Digitisation of Australian Newspapers

During this year I have become increasingly interested in how technology and new media can assist historical research.  As I said in my acknowledgements for my thesis, I owe a great debt to the digitisation of Australian newspapers currently being conducted by the National Library of Australia (NLA).  While I was researching the NLA was digitising The Brisbane Courier, an important source for my thesis. Each week I logged in to find more issues had been digitised for the period I was researching, 1906-1910.  None of the researchers who had explored my topic before me had this resource available to them.  Most of them did not even have the advantages of a word processor.  They were working with pen, paper, and if they were lucky, microfilm. Continue reading

Equipping Myself for a Day in the Archives

First published on my other blog 25/10/2010
Equipment I take into the archive
My archive kit.

Many people engage in historical research – family historians, local historians, authors, academic historians etc.  For all of us, the opportunities for visiting an archive can be fleeting and the cost in terms of time, travel, accommodation etc can be high.  Thorough preparation for a trip to the archives is the foundation for a fruitful day fossicking through historical records. Continue reading