Monthly Archives: October 2015

Visualizations need solid data

I initially attempted to map Admiral Albert Gleaves Berry’s career, but ran into issues with pretty much every platform. I lacked certain information in my data set, making it difficult to get points to show up on the map. I probably spent half my time forming and tweaking data, but what it really comes down to is incomplete data creates weak visualizations. For instance, Berry served in the South Atlantic Station between 1872-1876, but the ships were roaming large swaths of ocean and rarely entering port. In other words there was no fixed position to map readily available. I need to do a lot more research to fill in the data gaps. My hope is to map each graduate’s career to see where they overlap. Some might have served on the same ship, one a commander, the other an ensign. It would be enlightening for site visitors to see that historically the US Navy is small and people make connections that can last a lifetime. I only came back to the idea of mapping Berry’s career once I played around with the data sets more and realized that timeline was one of the best platforms.

I used the google docs template and tried as many media types as I could find. It took a lot of plug and play to find urls that transferred well into Timeline. I really like the look of it, but wonder what appearance options are available.

Timeline: Highlights of Admiral Albert Gleaves Berry’s Career

After initially failing to get anywhere with career mapping I switched gears to map graduate’s hometowns. I especially like the prospect of mapping hometowns with my full contingent of data and using cluster options. The group of graduates is representative of the average class entering the academy. I want to understand where midshipmen came from over the years. If they came from primarily seafaring regions, especially before the turn of the century, or if the Midwest is well represented? I really had difficulties with overlaying historic georeferenced maps on modern iterations.

Georeference: Graduates Hometowns

I think Cartodb could be a great visualization tool and really useful for my project if I can figure out which data to show and how to input it correctly (obviously). I had limited success creating single layered maps of the graduate’s hometowns and Berry’s career. In the case of the hometown’s map, I think the additional data of 100 years worth of graduates will be helpful in creating a better visualization. Cartodb is not the best platform for mapping a single graduate’s career, but might also be improved with more alum’s careers included in the data.


Map of Hometowns of first graduates

Map of Admiral Berry’s Career

I think Storymap is my favorite visualization tool and could be used as an exhibit to track a graduate’s career. That being said, I was still in the throes of data issues with Berry’s career so instead chose to showcase each graduate and their hometown. The multitude of appearance options, the lines tracking between the slides, and chronological capabilities make Storymap a one stop shop. I just wish there was a tagging option and a capability to create additional slides on each individual. Please let me know if it is possible!


Working on visualizations is another great way to reconfigure your project and offer new questions for query. At its core, however, is strong data. I would love to use many of these tools, but first need to pull together stronger and cleaner data.

Excel Exploration

Growing up, my father was a math God – accountant, helper in all thinks math homework; basically a human calculator. On the rare occasion he could not solve the problem immediately in his head he pulled up 1990s excel and went to town. To this day I am still in awe of his excel and general math prowess. After a week of attempting to understand the various tutorials, I defaulted to YouTube and had a drop the computer, get up and dance break through. I successfully used COUNTIF function!

When I saw we had to create at least 30 lines of data this week, I had a bit of a panic attack. Only after reading Trevor Owens and Miriam Posner’s posts did I recognize that I am not alone in thinking I have no data. After digging through my project involved I still could not delineate data so I began breaking it down to the individual graduate level. I created columns for graduation year, rank reached, name, and conflicts involved in. Questions started jumping out at me: How many served in the Spanish-American War? World War I? World War II? What rank did they reach? How many died in service to their country? As great as the questions surfacing were, my biggest challenge was understanding excel well enough to get answers. It took a lot of trial and error discovering which functions might work and the subsequent fails filling in the formula before I found the You Tube series eHow Tech. It was explained well and was extremely helpful! I learned that COUNTIF was the functions answer for many of my questions. I also used MODE and AVERAGE regarding officers ranks. Here is my project data: ClassRings19Oct

Working with the smaller dataset was a nice introduction because I could easily double check numbers. Continuing this line of research will create another 150 lines of data, but I feel much more comfortable with any results. After working with my data, I began seeing more and more questions that I could draw from my project that I had not initially included in the practice data. Other questions that arose included:

  1. How many graduates received medals of valor?
  2. What was their average age of death?
  3. What is the breakdown of ring manufacturers?
  4. What is the breakdown of symbols used on class crests?
  5. How many officers served together throughout their careers?
  6. What is the breakdown of center stones by gem type?

Luckily, I think the bulk of my questions can be answered using the COUNTIF and AVERAGE functions. I am particularly excited about the possibility of linking the officers through their careers and showcasing the connection among Naval Academy graduates. I also think the qualitative results will be another great way to present the material. I wish I had read this week’s assignments prior to finishing my grant proposal so I could have included this methodology.


Digital Public History: More Than Interpretation

Digital public history is taking the interpretive elements of digital history and building on them through community outreach. By taking advantage of the virtual landscape, a museum pushes their educational boundaries beyond the scope of a gallery. History is framed by questions, but more often than not those inquiries are asked by scholars and curators – leaving the public with a stunted view and unanswered questions. One way to alleviate this disparity is to include the public in the creative process. By listening to the community, an exhibit could become more diverse and well-rounded. The great thing about digital public history is its flexibility. Once a physical exhibit is built it is very difficult to update, but its online counterpart could be seen more as a prototype. The exhibit can be updated once  visitor input and contributions are received from the online community. By acknowledging the community you can empower people to participate in documenting history and create a larger history minded public through transparency.

The possibility for online engagement is a wonderful tool but can be very labor and time intensive. As the museum professionals in “Grappling with the Concept of Radical Trust,” point out there are many things to consider before allowing users to add content.  A museum is trusted as an authority on their subject matter, therefore to protect the brand, a certain level of staffing is needed to police incoming materials to ensure historical accuracy.

As internet usage continues its meteoric rise, virtual tourism is an obvious step to reach visitors across the globe. Drawing in the remote access visitor is a study in recognizing potential audiences. Creating our own personas for possible website visitors helped me form the basis of my design. I learned that a critical potential audience would be lost if I dove straight into the newest tools and non-linear navigation.  To reach the next generation and gain new audiences, the conversation needs to expand to multiple web platforms and be available in mobile format. The ability for users to create content interactions and build their own version of the narrative can serve as a gateway to visitation. Since my project is an extension of a physical place, there needs to be visitation information in addition to the primary education elements. Additionally, my interpretive narrative, and the mission need to mirror the physical location.

The readings this week helped me realize that our museum’s website has a long way to go. We do the best we can, but we are constrained by the host network and a small (mostly computer novice) staff. Our class interpretive projects websites are great options to link to and help start the conversation.

Here is the link to my draft exhibit: Naval Academy Class Rings



Academy Grads, Students, and the Reasonably Tech Savvy Parent/Teacher

At the heart of goal directed design is determining what type of audience to expect. Personas offer an in depth look at potential users so that designers can create a usable space for a variety of demographics.

Since my project will link from the Naval Academy Museum’s website, which is hosted by the Academy’s site (, I whittled down the likely users by drawing on my experiences. People likely trafficking the Academy’s main site include: Academy  graduates(recent and elderly), potential students, and the reasonably tech-savvy  parent or teacher.

Image result for old navy vet

  1. Academy Graduate: Captain Rupert Macdonald, USN (Ret), Class of 1956
  • Male, age 80, Retired Navy Captain pay
  • Rup likes to hang out with his grandchildren and tell them old war and Academy stories. He primarily gets online to use email and Skype to keep in touch with family and old friends. The grand kids are teaching him how to use Facebook and find websites since he is less mobile now.  His family has been bugging him for awhile now to do an oral history and possibly donate some of his military items to a museum.
  • On an average day Rup wakes up at 6 AM, reads for an hour, then takes a stroll around his neighborhood with his wife Gertrude. He and his wife Skype with the distant grand kids every couple of weeks, but since his daughter Kim’s family is coming for dinner he just gets on the computer after lunch to email. He forwards the funny chain emails and sends check ups with a few of his classmates. When the kids arrive, they pull up the newest YouTube clip to show the grandparents. Rup suggests the Naval Academy website and they start browsing the historical timeline.
  • Most older graduates do just enough internet to get by these days. Therefore, the website needs to be intuitive and user friendly. I will try to use larger clear font for the navigational routes and titles. I also want to include items that will be pertinent to their experience, such as images from the Naval Academy during their time. Contact information should be available for anyone that is interested in visiting or donating to the museum.


2. Current and Potential Students: Steve Collings, High School Junior, Graduating in 2017

  • Male, age 17, works part-time at Target
  • Steve is a hard charging JROTC cadet who knew at the age of 13 he wanted to attend a military academy. He is applying to Air Force, Navy, and West Point, but prefers the Naval Academy. Steve is a three sport athlete and does most of his homework and internet searches on his iPad or laptop. He is interested in military history and loves to watch World War II documentaries.
  • In an average day, Steve wakes up and goes to early morning drill practice and eats on the go before first period. During lunch he is meeting with a teacher to go over an assignment, since he won’t be in class because of a soccer match. On the bus to the match he studies for a test. After scoring the winning goal, Steve he chills out to music from his phone on the ride back.
  • Like many young adults, Steve lives on the go and primarily uses mobile devices. He would be considered an expert in basic technology. A website could be more complex, utilizing more tools, and tagging to link a variety of topics. It is critical that the site be compatible with mobile platforms to reach today’s students.


3. The Reasonably Tech-Savvy Parent or Teacher: Fred and Carol Smith, Parents of Susan Smith, Class of 2017

  • Fred and Carol, 57 and 59 years old, Fred works as a computer analyst at a local tech company for 60,000/year. He has a graduate degree in computer science. Carol is a part-time babysitter and caregiver for the elderly, making 37,000/year.
  • They are so proud of their daughter that Fred continuously visits the Naval Academy website looking for photos of Sue and belongs to a USNA parents forum.
  • While at work most days, Fred spends all day on the computer doing projects. Carol on the other hand is busy holding the baby Olive or caring for Alice. She only looks at her phone during nap time, when she visits Facebook. Once they both get home from work, Fred shows Carol the latest photo he found of Sue during his lunch hour. They plan on visiting her next month and seeing a football game. Since they know she’ll be in class when they arrive Friday, Fred and Carol plan on visiting the sites on the Yard.
  • Most parent’s have moderate to high knowledge of technology depending on their job and education. It is important to connect the website to social media and other non-standard applicable sites. An easy to navigate site, perhaps by gallery would be a nice option for parents who tend to search by browsing. Information on visiting would be helpful for planning purposes.