Category Archives: Maps

Final Thoughts on My Shuffle Along Project

Site link:–tours-1921-1923

In creating the two tour maps for Shuffle Along, I was hoping to provide an engaging, easy-to-use representation of the challenges and opportunities faced by African-American theatrical companies touring the country in the 1920s.  I believed it was important to provide contextual information in a narrative form, accompanied by contemporary visual images, to place both the original (A Company) and spinoff (B Company) tours in context.

As I discovered through experimentation with kepler and Neatline software packages, it is important to select the correct software to achieve your goals.  For the A Company–which toured in a more limited area–I wanted to show the timeline of dates along with full information (including photos of theaters when available and clips of early reviews) in an easy-to-use format for the site visitor.  I found Neatline to be the best solution for this task, particularly because of its embedded timeline feature that allows you to quickly locate each appearance.  On the other hand, for the B Company where I was more concerned with showing the geographic range of the tour, kepler worked better.  As with all software packages, I found that I needed to continue to experiment in order to improve the visual representation offered by each platform.  Comments from other students were very helpful in this area and I appreciate their input as I worked to develop my idea.

I already knew going into the project that the A Company played major cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago for extended dates, but avoided any appearances south of Washington, DC, although they still encountered difficulties in obtaining food and lodging due to contemporary racism.  The B Company, on the other hand, mainly appeared in one or two-night stands and toured more widely, although in many cases they appeared in segregated theaters.  Nonetheless, by mapping these appearances I was given new appreciation for the struggles each faced as well as their achievement opening the door for black entertainers on Broadway and beyond.

As with all DH projects, the next step is twofold: To continue to support the site by building more features to it and expand the story to embrace Eubie Blake’s full career; while also determining a social media strategy that will reach the core audience interested in the subject of theatrical history, African-American culture, and the history of American music.  I look forward to embracing these challenges.

Kepler Map

I used Kepler Maps working with the database of the Library of Congress Slave Narratives, focusing on the place of birth of each informant and where they were interviewed for the project.  Working from the assumption that the place of interview–while important–was probably not where the person lived when he/she was enslaved, I found it useful to include the birthplace information.  Of course, not all informants necessarily remained at their birthplace through their period of slavery but at least this gave a broader picture of the experiences of the informants and how broadly through the South they were originally spread.

I found the Kepler software not particularly easy to use and somewhat clunky particularly when it came to exporting maps and also the need to reload the database each time I returned to the software.  I suppose this might be due to its online, open nature; perhaps there is a downloadable version that enables you to save personal maps and data more efficiently.

For a new user, I would plan having enough time to complete a full map and save it in some form in one sitting to avoid having to reproduce work already performed.  I also imagine that if cost were not an issue there might be easier-to-use mapping software that would allow for more flexibility to the  user.