For my fellowship project, I will be creating an interactive, web-based map showing the history of property ownership in the Highlands area of Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Oak Bluffs was and still is a summer resort community noted for is African American vacationing communities dating to the late 19th and early 20th century and the Highlands area is one such community. This project seeks to use archival data and community knowledge to map the formation of an African American community in the Highlands from the 1870s to the 1950s. The map will be made using the Leaflet JavaScript library and use data from deed and historic map records I have collected during my fieldwork. My goal for this fellowship is to create a working version of the map which can be expanded on in the future. My end goal is for a completed version of this this map, that would track property ownership into the mid-20th century and include data from census records, to be hosted on a website run by community partners and co-researchers.

Currently I am working with the leaflet library and in a geographic information system (GIS) program to create the infrastructure necessary to run the map. It is here that I have run into snags and experienced something that others who, like me, are learning digital heritage methods and inexperienced with coding, may find familiar: there are way too many solutions available on the internet.

Too many solutions may not seem like a bad thing, but I find that my inexperience with programing and the specific goals I have means that a lot of the solutions suggested do not fix my problems, I cannot get them to work with the bits of code I have already written, and they require additional knowledge, code, and libraries to work. I find that as I am experimenting with fixes I am slowly learning a bit more, even if 90% of what I tried I simply could not work. For my most recent fix, transforming and pulling-in GIS data from a local GeoJson file, I had to read and try at least 6 different code examples and found myself rereading documentation before I finally understood where in my code I should put the one piece of language I knew had to be a part it. Things like and many others that are not self-evident to me yet, and may never be, but I do believe I am learning something and I work with this project.

I do not know what a solution to this issue would be, but I find that going back to when the code was working, even if it means removing whole “solutions” that definitely (probably) should work, is helpful and only a bit frustrating. I also find that looking up the terms others use is helpful – I have a bad tendency to skip over the lines in the documentation that do not seem relevant or do not make sense to me. Changing this habit and gaining more knowledge should be helpful and i continue to wade through the sea of coding solutions.

Here is an example of my map as it is now, with the ability to pull in GeoJson files with geolocations set in a specific projection: The next step for me is to pull in and style polygons from the GeoJson file.

A map of Oak Bluffs and Tisbury, Massachusetts. Three "Xs" show the test locations and one has an open pop-up which shows test language of the location, a fake date, and "words" as a description.
Screenshot of my leaflet map. For now the symbols and data are just tests. Base map is OpenStreetMap.