The ‘Digital Harlem’ site employs digital technology to integrate a range of sources – the case files of the Manhattan District Attorney, probation files, prison records, undercover investigations, social surveys, census schedules and the two major newspapers published in Harlem, The New York Age and The New York Amsterdam News – and to visualize and explore the spatial dimensions of everyday life in Harlem during its heyday, 1915-1930.
Whereas a traditional historical map is static, those in Digital Harlem have the advantage of being dynamic. The database can be searched for, and the interface can then map, particular places or types of location, events, where an individual lived his/her life, or moments in time – or any combination of such data. For example, we have generated maps of the sites of nightlife, assaults, the locations that feature in life of a black teenager – his homes, workplaces, where he played basketball, swam, and had sex with his girlfriend – and, as in this image, events that occurred in January 1925. Clicking on any of the icons of the map links you to the associated database record.
Both the database and the map interface were designed by Damian Evans of the Archaeological Computing Laboratory (now Arts eResearch) at the University of Sydney, and refined over a period of more than three years as we added data, integrated additional types of data and developed a clearer sense of what we could use the map to visualize and analyze.
For an overview of the site, see “Putting Harlem on the Map,” in Writing History in the Digital Age, eds Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki (2012)