Walk in Linn’s shoes with GIS

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Map of Roanoke Island with GIS

GIS, Geographic Information System, helped us visualize the life of James Merrill Linn and the Civil War by showing us the travel path he took. Throughout the class, we have been introduced to different techniques which people have used to decode a text and learned to derive information through various means: TEI, TimeMapper, Voyant Tools, Transcribing. This tool is the most effective so far. It allows us to see many layers of information letting us to obtain a lot more informations. We are able to see it in geographic form and displaying informations including time and context.

Bodenhamer says “We recognize our representations of space as value-laden guides to the world as we perceive it” (14). We often associate ourselves with where we are from and where we have been. Locations has always been an important of our lives. Being able to see Linn’s experience in terms of location and path, we are able to integrate more information than we could with  other kind of representations. With the help of GIS, we can display the location, time, and context of these events.

In my experience with GIS, using a layer for the concentration of slaves in the United States in the 1860s and the battle won by the North, I was able to estimate the location for the 19 contrabands’ origin. In the diary, Linn says  “a small boat came in, said to have had on board 19 contrabands, who escaped from above Roanoke — 5 women & a baby”. From seeing the concentration of battles won by the North close to Roanoke, we are able to see its correlation with the escape of the slave.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 10.23.38 PM“Evidence about the world depends on the perspective of the observer” (19). In the diary, Linn mentioned that the gun boats went between Tyrrell Shore and Roanoke Island. As we can clearly see, Tyrrell is the slave concentration area which is far from Roanoke Island. Without the help of GIS, we would not have question Linn’s directional sense. This ,however, can also means that the maps they had back then was not accurate. The answer to this is not important but what important is the question itself. Without GIS, we would never have come up with this hypothesis and therefore another piece of information.

Bodenhamer says “visualize a spatially accurate physical and manmade environment that proved the attraction” (21). We were able to walk in Linn’s shoes. He noticed sightsee, he observed the shore and the lighthouse, He had a smoke at night. Seeing how close he was to the battle, we can have a close reading on his personal life.

Link to Map: http://bit.ly/1t6CIEDScreen Shot 2014-11-19 at 11.12.44 PM



Mapping Assignment & Blog Prompt

Objective: Work individually and collaboratively within ArcGIS Online environment to show how James Merrill Linn’s diary entries from Feb-Apr 1862 can help to narrate his experience as a participating soldier in the battles of Roanoke Island and South Mills.

Using the data layers identified in the GIS DataSources sheet in the Linn GIS Data Dictionary spreadsheet (https://docs.google.com/a/bucknell.edu/spreadsheets/d/1zSoiHpFx2dlJ93dsfXGTy1tOBOaJRGplP6g-Y8HC7mM/edit?usp=sharing ) experiment with the data to consider the place names and locations that Linn identifies in his diary in relation to battle sites, topographical features (rivers, canals), allegiance and/or population. How does analysis of geospatial data help us to make sense of Linn’s descriptions and observations?


  1. Two map layers submitted to the course story map that show your mastery of GIS skills; each layer should include at least point, one shape, and one path. Each layer should also include map notes and textual commentary that incorporates your interpretation of the diary entries and the data that is available to you within the course map with which you work.
  2. A 400-450 word blog post response to this prompt: What can GIS reveal to us about Linn’s participation in the Civil War – and more generally how we can use maps and spatial thinking to help us understand the complexities and nuances of history? Include three direct references to the Bodenhammer article; embed the story map into your post.
  3. Comment on one of your classmates’ posts.

Wednesday 11/12: Build test map w/ Janine

Friday 11/14: Read Bodenhammer article
Work on point, shape, and path
Choose 2 diary entries to create layers in story map (could be own entry plus one or two other entries)

Weekend: Close-read diary entries to be mapped; synthesize entries regarding Linn’s description of places
Experiment with ArcGIS Online data layers to think about how you want to use the story map to demonstrate Linn’s relationship to place

REMINDER: All students are required to attend either one talk session or the poster session for the Digital Humanities conference on Saturday, 11/15. The conference events take place in the LC. You will write a short (300 word) summary of the session you attended and if a poster, take a photograph of the poster you found most interesting. http://dsconf.blogs.bucknell.edu/

Monday/17: Refine story map layers in class

Wednesday 11/19: Complete work on story map layers in class; submit blog post with embedded link to web map application by 11pm.