TimeMapper and Chronology of events

TimeMapper is a tool that helps to organize historical figures and events in a chronological order. After you fill in the correct info for your specific event and submit the information, it is then documented in a google doc and is placed into the timeline. In our TimeMapper we created a database of historical events that were happening around the same time that Linn was writing his diary to see what events could relate to James Merrill Linn in the winter of 1862.

Chronology of events is important because if it wasn’t in the correct order the context wouldn’t make sense to the reader and they would have trouble following what was going on. Chronology illustrates the sequence of historical events.

Graphical representation clarifies historical events, because I believe it makes the information more clear and interesting to look at as opposed to just words. It shows the chronological order of events in an organized and easy to follow format.

TimeMapper doesn’t give any representation of the ideas, similarities and connections between different events except for time. In Linn’s narrative the timeline was very helpful in showing the chronological timeframe events were occurring in, but not the connections between the different events.


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Battle of Gettysburg

When I was reading Linn’s diary, I was sometimes confused with the specific events he was talking about during that time period. However, when I saw the timeline comparing his story to the rest of the history, I was able to better understand the context of certain events and have a better perspective of why certain things were occurring. TimeMapper helped me to see where Linn’s diary entries were in relation to history around that time period.


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King of Madagascar Strangled to Death

In Grafton’s essay he states how he believes that graphic representation is among the most important tools for organizing information. Grafton states that one of the reasons for the gap in our historical and theoretical understanding of timelines is that people generally consider chronology as a kind of study. He says people see them only as distillations of complex historical narratives and ideas. Chronologies work and that’s pretty much enough for the average reader. But this is a false belief. For example, from the classical period to the renaissance in Europe, chronology was held at a status higher than the study of history itself.After creating a timeline called the Chart of Biography, Priestley reveals that “historical narrative is not linear”. He claimed that a linear timeline does not represent the connections between events and historical figures in a precise way.

Blog III: Representing Time with Space

Representing historical events in a written form can be a difficult process.  Writing is a medium that, once created, is unchanging, so the information needs to be represented in some way that can still show change and time.  We do this by manipulating space.  Grafton pointed out in his writing that traditional clocks trace time as a circle, and even when we look at a digital clock, we translate the numbers that we see into a line of the time in a day.


The same process happens with the longer-scale time of history as well.  It’s difficult to understand history by simply interpreting words on a page, so we translate the words into events and visualize those in space.  Commonly, those events go on a timeline.  Timelines are good at showing proximity and distance between events, and revealing patterns over time.

In our Timemapper timeline, we constructed a database of historical events that surround 1860s Events - TimeMapper - Make Timelines and TimeMaps fast! - from the Open Knowledge Foundation Labsthe time when Linn was writing his diary.  The creation and study of our completed timeline made me realize a few things.  For example, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in a particular set of events. As a result, it can be difficult to recognize, or pay significant mind to, larger events going on around the same time.  When reading Linn’s diary, I found myself forgetting that he was writing about events in a small corner of the Civil War.  Opening up the scale and comparing his story to the rest of history really put his story into perspective.  The scale of a historical graphic really depends on how detailed you make it, represented well by the annals from the 700s in Grafton’s essay.


Timemapper also revealed how independent history and different parts of the world can be.  While the Civil War was going on, life in the rest of the world went on as normal.  Even in many parts of the United States, major events happened that had nothing to do with the war.  This ties in with my previous observation, and helps to explain Linn’s writing.  Human history is a collection of the stories of individuals who move around, who make and lose connections.  It’s impossible to represent such a complicated system in a definitive, single-stream way.

1860s Events - TimeMapper - Make Timelines and TimeMaps fast! - from the Open Knowledge Foundation Labs (1)

The events of a decade

What is Time?

After using TimeMapper to document major world events of the 1860s, I have seen how chronology of events contributes to linear and non-linear time. It is a user-friendly tool that allows one to fill out the form of the even he or she wants to create. It is then documented in a google doc and is placed into the timeline. We used this tool to see what events were happening in the 1860s that could relate to James Merrill Linn in the winter of 1862.

Florence Nightingale Finds the First School of Nursing

Florence Nightingale Finds the First School of Nursing

One very interesting fact that Grafton brings up is that Chart of Biography, published in 1765, was revolutionary in that itintroduced chart that is recognizable to most of us today. This chart was a a series of horizontal lines indicating when and how long famous figures lived. Priestly’s chart was one of the first non-linear time maps. Our TimeMapper experiment was a new rendition of this simple concept. It shows how two unrelated events, such as: Florence Nightingale’s first nursing school and James Merrill Linn enlisting in the war, really do have a relationship. Clearly, if this was only the first nursing school, the medical health system was lacking. This definitely must have had an effect on Linn and his fellow troops.

First Machine-Powered Submarine Photograph

First Machine-Powered Submarine Photograph


Grafton brings up the point that technological advancements, such as photography, had an impact on documenting history. In our TimeMapper assignment, every one of the events of the 1860’s had a photo and geographical coordinates. These ammedities make it easier to relate the historical events to Linn’s situation.


On figure 14 in the reading, Grafton references “The Long Now Foundation, comparative time scales of the concept of long.” Linn, in the winter of 1862, is documenting the “now.” When we used TimeMapper, we were documenting the “nowadays.” Linn’s writing focuses on yesterday, today, tomorrow, while our research this past week focuses on more on an entire decade. Why would Linn reference the publication of Les Miserables? He is writing with a different concept of time. He is living in the “now.”