LEADS Blog

Alyson Gamble, Week 4: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

I just realized that the titles of my posts aren’t in a standardized format, so I won’t complain too much about nonstandard entries in data sets–at least not this week. 😉
In the last few days, I’ve made some progress on hand analyzing the schools (seems done) and the occupational data (not done). What is done is me using R for this project. I’m officially no longer trying to “fix” things using R. R has a lot of great capabilities, and I usually like working in it, but it wasn’t serving me for this particular project. Sometimes the best thing to do is to admit that something’s not working, and move on to a different system.
Thanks to my mentor, Caroline, I’ve collected more useful resources to help with the next steps of the project. I’m also following advice from Caroline and several LEADS people, including other 2019 fellows, and looking at OpenRefine as my antidote for the street data. As Bridget pointed out in a comment on the last post, the way we talk about addresses isn’t standard: six miles outside of town doesn’t exactly correspond to an exact set of coordinates.
My goals to accomplish by next Friday are: (1) create a slide and one-minute recording for the advisory board meeting on my work thus far + (2) find some genuinely fun things to add to that slide, such as interesting ways to refer to geographic locations + (3) be genuinely “done” with the school and occupational data. Then I can start working in OpenRefine.
As a final bit, Monica at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania wrote up a nice post about the work being done on this project, which you can read here: https://hsp.org/blogs/fondly-pennsylvania/enhancing-access-through-data-visualization

Alyson Gamble
Doctoral Student, Simmons University
LEADS Blog

Alyson Gamble: Week 03

This week on my project at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, I focused on exploring the data and planning for what I want to accomplish by the end of this fellowship. While exploring the data, as well as the project files from last year’s fellow, a few very important issues became apparent.
  1. Address data needs to be addressed using resources available to deal with old street names, as well as standardization of address formats
  2. School data needs to be adjusted for duplication and re-naming
  3. Occupation data needs to be considered. Can the non-standard occupations be mapped to controlled vocabularies? If not, how can this information be utilized.
These three main issues appear to be the best focus for my time during the next two weeks. To keep my mind active during this process, I’ll try to collect unusual examples, which I’ll share here.

Alyson Gamble
Doctoral Student, Simmons University
LEADS Blog

Week 02 – Historical Society of Philadelphia

This week’s work could be defined by data gathering and meeting having. I handled a lot of logistics, such as creating a communication plan with Caroline Hayden, my mentor at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP). I was also able to discuss the project with last year’s Fellow, Karen Boyd, who gave me a great overview from her perspective. I’d previously viewed Karen’s lightning talk about her work at HSP, but being able to discuss what she did and what she thinks is a good next phase helped me figure out the scope for my own work on the project. Along with the coordination with Caroline and Karen, the LEADS Fellows had an online meeting where we discussed what we’ve been doing since leaving our boot camp in Philadelphia. I enjoyed hearing how other people’s work is progressing and am excited to begin the next stage of my own. 

Alyson Gamble
Doctoral Student, Simmons University
LEADS Blog

Alyson Gamble: So it begins…

My name is Alyson Gamble and I’m a doctoral student from Simmons University. My placement in LEADS-4-NDP is with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Before the LEADS boot camp at Drexel, I was able to spent half a day at my host site. My mentor, Caroline Hayden, gave me a great tour of the HSP’s buildings and collections. I met other HSP employees who were part of the project last year. Being able to visit my host site in person was helpful to acquaint me with both the people and the collections. I’ll be focusing on historical public school records from Philadelphia.
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Figure 1. Picture of the historical marker for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
The boot camp itself was very informative. Since I was not familiar with all of the concepts we discussed, I made sure to remember that this was an educational opportunity and to recognize that I don’t (and won’t) know everything. I enjoyed the presenters’ lessons, especially ones with a strong data visualization component. From my past experience and research, I’ve learned how important visualizations are for making data understandable. With the right visualization, a person can gain insight into data that they wouldn’t otherwise notice. Right now, I’m very fond of The Pudding (https://pudding.cool/) for data journalism; one of my students from my previous life as a science librarian, Caitlyn Ralph, is one of the site’s stars and I adore all of the work that she and others do on the publication. My favorite data visualization tool is currently Tableau, which I learned a lot about from Jess Cohen-Tanugi at Harvard’s Lamont Library. It’s pretty easy to use and makes nice dataviz. I’m especially fond of the idea of using Tableau as a sandbox for determining what kind of visuals will work best for a data set before creating those visuals in another program like R.
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Figure 2. A picture of the final day of bootcamp
My favorite part of the bootcamp, though, was the opportunity to meet other doctoral students and the LEADS-4-NDP staff. Since I don’t get to interact with PhD students in person very often, it was a treat to spend time with the other LEADS Fellows. I’m very excited for our time together in this program and for seeing what happens with our projects.
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Figure 3. Benches in the Drexel courtyard