Mapping Movies deploys GIS mapping as an iterative process of research and learning rather than as an engine for producing finished maps. Because GIS is “good to think with” (Klenotic, 2011, p. 60), its mappings represent an active form of spatial thinking about historical questions and processes. To promote discovery and exploration of cinema’s spatial history, Mapping Movies began offering in 2013 an interactive Web GIS experience using the Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA) developed by the University of New Hampshire. The server for ERMA/Mapping Movies went offline in July 2023, and work is underway to develop and relaunch the project’s online interactive maps using new, open source, cloud-based GIS resources. These maps will be released incrementally over the coming months, so check back periodically for new updates and new layers of information.
UPDATE (January 3, 2024)
In continuing to explore QGIS Cloud for mapping cinema history, I reached data storage limits (50 mb) of the free version of the platform when I attempted to upload a shapefile showing the geographic distribution of the U.S. foreign born population across 2,960 counties in 1910. I created the shapefile from U.S. census data in attempt to visualize the important context of immigration as an aspect of early cinema and show how this might relate to the distribution of motion picture theaters as gleaned from The Billboard’s published list in 1910 (see previous update below). The free version of QGIS Cloud works well for simple point data with few attributes, which was true of The Billboard 1910 list, but it does not work as well when attempting to situate such points in the dense and more complex attribute contexts afforded by U.S. census data. As an alternative, I turned to ESRI’s ArcGIS online free “public” account mapping platform, and hit the same data limits. However, my home University affords faculty with access to an ArcGIS online “organizational” account, which enables much larger and broader capabilities than the public account. Using this account, I created a web map that included my two layers of 1910 Billboard data on movie theaters (one layer for cities and a second layer for small towns), as well as my data layer on the distribution of foreign born U.S. population from the 1910 Census. The census layer was derived from data packaged for public use by the Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011. According to the NHGIS data dictionary and codebook, the number of foreign born residents in each county is stored in the column headed ‘a5b004’ and the total population for each county is recorded in the column headed “a22001.” I brought the data into QGIS and used the field calculator tool to determine the percentage of each county’s population that was foreign born, with the results stored in a new column headed “a5b005.” I then exported this data from QGIS as a shapefile that could be brought into ArcGIS online. In addition to these three layers, I added a fourth layer featuring a 1910 georeferenced map from the David Rumsey Collection showing U.S. railroads and railroad mileage between stops. The map was brought into ArcGIS as a web hosted Tile Layer served from the Mapwarper.net crowdsourced mapping platform. After creating my web map, I used ArcGIS online’s “Instant Web App” tools to convert it into an interactive atlas that enables users to explore the four layers of data in both 2D and 3D (the Tile Layer, however, is not compatible with the 3D viewer and cannot be added to the 3D map). To visit the test version of the ArcGIS online Mapping Movies Cloud web application, click here or on the map image above.
UPDATE (October 16, 2023)
I have begun exploring different cloud-based GIS mapping platforms for the next iteration of Mapping Movies. QGIS offers a free cloud platform (QGIS Cloud) that facilitates the basic visualization and exploration of data online. Though the free version of the platform has a limited range of tools, and does not permit the exchange of data via downloads, it does offer a quick, free, and open source way for those who are familiar with the desktop version of QGIS to easily share their work by simply adding a plugin to QGIS desktop. To test QGIS cloud, I have used it to reproduce and share one of the first datasets that I had mapped on the old ERMA Mapping Movies platform, which was a mapping of a list of U.S. moving picture theaters published in The Billboard magazine over several months in late 1910 and early 1911. This map does not show the locations of individual theaters. Instead it shows the total number of theaters that were known to be open at that time in what The Billboard characterized as “principal cities” and “small towns” across the United States. I will continue to add new data layers to this map in the coming weeks, so check back to see how it evolves. To visit the test version of the Mapping Movies Cloud website, click here or on the map image above.