Geospatial Data Visualization Project

In week 3 (and before), we spent a significant amount of time exploring the parts of the geospatial web (and how those parts worked with one another).  We also talked about the fundamental principles of geospatial visualization (both from a technical perspective and a design perspective).  After, the students were set loose on a family of (what I called) “full stack” web mapping/geospatial viz tools (specifically geocommons, MapBox, and CartoDB) with a challenge.  One of the other constrains was the data itself – I wanted them to focus on one of three collections of data: national parks, world heritage sites, or University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology collections data collections data. Based on these constraints (platform/tool & data), I wanted the students (in two teams of 5) to collectively construct a narrative (what are you trying to communicate), collectively develop a concept, choose a tool (Mapbox, CartoDB, or Geocommons) that would allow you to build their concept, break into smaller groups based on agreed upon responsibilities on the project, wrangle and clean the data as necessary, and then build.

It is also worth noting that these were built in a day and half.  Here are the results:

A Map of Oceanian Artefacts

This map visualises the number of archeological and anthropological artefacts found in different areas throughout Oceania. The aim is to provide an easy-to-interpret representation of how significantly certain areas have been excavated for artefacts; with a link to further exploration of the resulting collections.


An interactive map that a) highlights the places material objects are found in Oceania, b) provides a comparison of frequency and c) links to the museum collections related to that place held by University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Functionality & Technology:

Areas where artefacts have been located throughout Oceania are mapped to points on a map. The number of artefacts are represented by increasingly large map points. When you hover over the point on the map you will get a pop-up bubble that includes information on what that location is and the number of artefacts found there. Clicking further will take you to the digital collections related to those objects.


We invite a broad audience to visit for the purpose of learning, research and further exploration.

Data, information, content:

The sample data for this map are the Oceanian objects from University of Pennsylvania Museum Archeological collection. The Oceanian collection has 21,014 objects and these files contain metadata that usually includes information about what the object is, a brief physical description, dates, where it is from and what it is made of. The number of objects was limited to those which linked to a particular culture and locatable site.

Endangered African Heritage

The continent of Africa has always been rich in terms of oral history, material culture, and amazing man-made architectural structures so it is no wonder that it is home to over a hundred UNESCO certified world heritage sites. One thing that may come as a surprise, though, is that many of these sites are actually considered endangered by UNESCO standards due to both human factors and natural factors. There may actually be more sites that meet the requirements of being considered endangered by UNESCO, but the sites or countries themselves have to request to be inscribed as such; however, some view that as an embarrassment and therefore refrain from requesting help.

Much of Africa has been victim to collectors of ancient and/or cultural artifacts who have pillaged these hidden gems and then made enormous profits through illegal sales abroad. But this is not the only threat to Africa’s cultural and historical artifacts, there is also a worry over the natural deterioration process. According to the UNESCO site, “[u]nder the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the World Heritage Committee can inscribe on the List of World Heritage in Danger properties whose protection requires ‘major operations…and for which assistance has been requested’”. By creating this visual, we hope to demonstrate why these sites require help or at least extra protection against collectors.

The purpose or goal of this project is to map out endangered African Cultural Heritage sites and to look at how many and what types of artifacts are being extracted from these sites. It will also compare how many artifacts have been found in or around the heritage sites versus how many have been found in other areas of each country. Our information is limited only to the artifacts listed from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, so this is in no way a complete or conclusive set of data and is only intended as a visual representation of the importance of preserving these sites for African cultural heritage.

The ideal goal will be to create a map-based visualization in layers where the first layer will include the coordinates of African Cultural Heritage sites that have been declared as endangered by UNESCO. The second layer of the map will include relevant museum artifacts that are listed as having originated from these sites or as from near these sites. In order to do this, we had to go through the CVS list provided by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and clear out the irrelevant artifacts to our project and then search for the longitude and latitude coordinates in order to more specifically place them on the map.

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