During week 3 I focused on working with the date information of the manuscripts data. Similar to the geographical data, working with date information also means working with variants. The date information of the manuscript data is presented in descriptive texts (e.g., early 15th century); and the ways of the description vary across the collection. Most of the time data appear as ranges, e.g., 1425-1450), and there is a lot of overlap between the ranges. Ambiguity of the information exists across the dataset, mostly because the date information was collected and pieced together from texts of the manuscripts. Additionally, some manuscripts appear to be produced and refined during different time periods, with texts created earlier during the 14th and 15th centuries and illustrations/decorations added at a later time – for example. So the first task I did was to regroup the date information and make it more clear for visualization. This graph shows how I color-coded the dataset and grouped the data into five general categories – before the 15th century, 1400-1450 (first half of the 15th century), 1450-1500 (second half of the 15th century), 16th century, and cross-temporal/multiple periods.
Based on the groupings, I created multiple line graphs, histograms, and bar charts to visualize the temporal distribution of the book of hours productions from different aspects. The still visualizations assisted me in finding some interesting insights – for example, the production of the book of hours experienced an increase from the 1450s onward, which was relatively the same period of the inventing of the printing press.
But one problem of the still graphs is that they can’t effectively combine the date information with other information in the dataset, to explore the relationships between various aspects of the manuscript data and to display the “ecosystem” of the book of hours production and circulation in the middle ages Europe. Some questions that might be answered by interactive graphs include: If, during certain periods of time, was the book of hours production especially popular in certain countries or regions? And, did the decorations or stylistics of the genre change over time? To explore more interactive approaches, I am also exploring TimelineJS and creating a chronological gallery for the book of hours collection. TimelineJS is a storytelling tool that allows me to integrate time information, images of sample book of hours, and descriptive texts into the presentation. I am currently communicating with my mentor about this idea and I look forward to sharing more about it in the next few weeks’ blogs.