Statement on Working on Black History

This is a brief statement about working on Black history. The basic premise is that historically people like me (white cis-gendered men) have mistreated Black History- either ignoring it completely and pretending as if Black people had no history or portraying it as a side note to white history. What is oft taught as American history frequently excludes Black history (and Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, etc. history). That is, it’s not actually American history. So, I think it’s important to say a few words here about my identity and it’s connection to my current work.

Bear with me for a bit of background… I’m trained as an archaeologist with specialization in Pre-Columbian South America (specifically the coast of Ecuador and the exchange of the shellfish known as Spondylus). But, I have always maintained that the best way to teach archaeology is to do it. In that vein, I have developed a few small local projects (local as in close to Muhlenberg College where I teach). Since about 2015, I have been working on the historic modification of vast landscapes in Pennsylvania through the production of charcoal for the iron industry. I primarily use LiDAR- a tool that has changed the way we work in archaeology- and field survey (with students). This type of archaeology is “low impact,” which basically means we don’t dig. This reduces costs greatly and keeps artifacts in the ground. But, it also allows us to focus on the landscape scale. We have identified thousands of relict charcoal hearths (RCHs; where trees were converted into charcoal),  the remains of hundreds of collier huts (small conical structures built to temporarily house charcoal burners, a.k.a. colliers, for the up to 8 months they lived in the forest making charcoal), paths and roads connecting these along with the remains of associated structures and other modifications of the landscape.

Early in this research, I began noticing a connection between rural Black communities (which tend to be small) and these charcoal “fields” (tracts are thousands of acres and the RCHs are spaced out rather evenly hence the term “fields”).  During the Fall of 2020, due to the pandemic my students in Field Archaeology were dispersed all over the northeast for a “remote” semester. Normally, I run this as “field” class and we spend c. 8 full days in the field (usually Sundays). But since students could only come for a smaller number of field trips, I could not do the traditional field school. I also needed a place where things were a bit closer together (so that we could do 3 field trips instead). So, I decided to take them to Hopewell Furnace. There we could both see and learn about iron production and the production of charcoal for the iron industry. Since this was a relatively new landscape for me, I did lots of background research before we took the field trip. One map really made me take notice. From 1862, the map is from a Berks County Atlas (HERE). To the northwest of Hopewell Furnace (on the other side of hills that appear empty but are, in reality, the charcoal fields) was a grouping of houses labeled “Colored Settlement” with only one house indicated by name, “Jno Watson.” This contrasts with all of the other houses around it where each was labeled with an individual owner. Why would the cartographer not put individual names on individual houses for this “settlement”? Especially since other, very similar, maps from the same time (one from 1860 and one from 1872) name those home owners. This was both a perfect example of the power of maps- individual landowners had literally been wiped of the map and replaced with “Colored Settlement” – and an example of the racism of the time.

Here’s what that map changed. First, I began to feel like I was ignoring something really important. But, on the flip side, I also felt like I was not an expert in Black history so I shouldn’t be talking about it. Then again, by NOT talking about it was I doing the exact same thing as that map- quite literally erasing Black history. That realization did not feel good. I was sure that the relationship between this community (and other small rural Black communities) and charcoal lands was important, but, in my ignorance, I couldn’t say much more than that. Was it my responsibility to investigate this more closely BECAUSE it was Black history?

However, I kept feeling also that – because people with an identity like my own had done so much damage, not just to Black history but to Black people- I couldn’t just start researching this in way that I had been researching charcoal landscapes. If I was going to do this then I needed to do my research differently?  My basic answer is to listen. Really listen. No, I mean, listen better than I ever had before. There’s probably more than two important aspects of listening, but here’s what I came up with (in a nonhierarchical order). A) Listen to Black scholars. And B) Listen to descendent of these communities. But, what does that mean? 

Luckily, I was on sabbatical for Spring of 2021. Instead of my planned project, I basically dedicated myself to developing a bibliography and reading lots about Black history with a clear focus on southeastern Pennsylvania and the 19th century. I developed a bibliography – you can see it here, but be forewarned that it includes lots of material about charcoal and iron production as well as Black history. But just reading books is not enough. I had to ensure that I was really processing and incorporating this scholarship in my own work. And, of course, giving Black scholars the appropriate credit for their work. One of the realizations in this process is that there is so much that we already know that is not being shared and/or taught in HS history. That is, while I think that I can make a contribution, I also began to think about ways to boost the work that has already been done. As one small example, I mention two important books in my public talks- Cheryl Janifer LaRoche’s Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance (2017) and William Still’s classic The Underground Rail Road (1872). I have also developed a resource guide that I hand out when I present to the public. I have written a short article for the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation that argues that Black History is all around us, even in state parks and forests. These are small, even tentative steps. 

I have also tried alternative approaches to listening. I follow mainly Black scholars on Twitter (and Indigenous scholars, but that’s a different story). This allows me to “hear” some of the critique and comments that don’t get published. It’s helped me understand the vast weight put on Black scholars. It has helped me understand that their scholarship is not solely about the work but about the stressful battle against systemic racism.   

I also applied for and was accepted to a 3 week long National Endowment for the Humanities Institute at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC entitled, “Towards a Peoples History of Landscape: Black & Indigenous Histories of the Nation’s Capital.” Organized by Andrea Roberts and Thaïsa Way, the institute brought together a wonderful group of scholars as participants and as guest speakers. We visited important sites and spoke with Black and Indigenous scholars. We read- A LOT. I’m still processing the experience and probably will for a long time. I value the curated syllabus. I don’t say this lightly, but the institute changed the course of my research. 

Lastly, one of the central components of the NEH institute was care. I know, it seemed odd to me too. But, I (think) I get it now. Care is about people and attempting to provide time and space to understand. Practically, for me this means that I can only do this work by listening to the descendants of these small rural Black communities. So, that’s what I am doing. This project is guided by them and I have dedicated myself to work that they indicate will be a benefit for them. (Note that I am not posting names because I do not have their permission). This is part of the ethic of care. It also means that my work has been slow (or slower than in the past). But, that’s perfectly fine. I do, however, recognize that I am privileged to be tenured and, therefore, don’t have the same requirements as non-tenured scholars. 

I look forward to feedback on this post, but if your response to my focus on Black scholars and Black perspectives is that this is biased (or somehow “reverse racism”) you are wrong. Sorry to be blunt, but you’re wrong. For decades I have read the works of white scholars. It’s the foundation of my scholarship. Focusing on Black scholars at this point is simply trying to correct for the inherent bias in that experience. But, if that weren’t true, if I didn’t have that background it would still be 100% appropriate to focus on Black scholars and the Black experience. Indeed, I really like to think that this is working on tearing down that foundation and building a new, better, more respectful one. This would start correcting for a wider anti-Black bias in all of academia. We have a very long way to go before that work will be complete. 

A Comparison of Black/White Land Ownership in 1850-1870 in Chester County, PA

I wanted to better understand landownership in Pennsylvania. I am conducting research on a small, rural Black community  that is currently known as Six Penny Creek (within French Creek State Park in Union Township, Berks County, PA). The piece of land upon which this community sits was purchased in 1842 by a Black husband and wife by the name of Jehu and Dinah Nixon. It was pretty clear to me that simply purchasing a piece of land was a substantial success for the pair, but I needed data to better demonstrate this. How likely was it for any Black family to purchase land? How did that compare to White families?

Luckily, there’s data available for this through IPUMS. I won’t go all the details about how I got it, etc. – suffice it to say that it is an amazing resource even if it is only accessible to researchers like me. Unfortunately, real estate values were only collected in 1850, 1860 and 1870. At this point, I am most interested in the settlement around the Civil War and so these dates work even if I would have liked to see data from both a little earlier and a little later. That said, these dates still provide important information.

The IPUMS data is coded and therefore amenable to analysis. I downloaded data for Chester County, Pennsylvania. Although Six Penny Creek is in Berks County, the people in the settlement have significant connections to people in Chester County where there are similar small, rural Black communities just across the Maryland border/ Mason-Dixon Line. I included variables such as race (in this case it is coded simply as Black or White), real estate value and relationship to the head of household. The latter is important because almost all land is listed with the head of household (even if it might be owned by a married couple or even a group of individuals). I say “almost all” because sometimes (approximately 10% of the time, regardless of race) someone else in the household is listed as owning real estate.

So, some simple statistics. During this time period, approximately 47-49% of White heads of household did NOT own land while roughly 73-78% of Black heads of household. That’s quite a large difference- more than 50% of White heads of households owned land while only 25% of Black heads of households own land. That alone is a massive difference, but I felt that this did not necessarily paint the full picture. So, I constructed a histogram of the value of the real estate by race and year.

A few notes about the graph below. First, it’s straight from the Pivot Table in Excel and, therefore, some of the labels are outside my control. For example this is divided up by year and race- you can see these labels on the right. Note that “1” is the IPUMS code for White and “2” for Black or African American. There are ways that I could have modified this, but these are not straight forward, but I also think it is important to preserve and consider these codes. What do that say about both historic and present racism? The horizontal axis is “bins” of real estate value in increments of $500. The vertical axis is the percentage of heads of households of that race who owned real estate valued within each “bin”.

Excel Pivot Table of IPUMS data- Real estate value by race and year.

The graph nicely demonstrates how real estate values differ by race. Black heads of household were much more likely to own $1000 or less of real estate (the red/orange and yellow lines). Approximately 80% (1850), 77% (1860), and 60% (1870) of all Black heads of household who owned land were in the lowest two “bins” of value ($1-500 and $501-1000). This is starkly different for White heads of household (blue, green and light blue)- this number hovers around 20% (25% in 1850, 21% in 1860 and 15% in 1870). That is, if Black families were able to acquire land, it was largely low value (likely in terms of both land and homes). While a few Black heads of household were able to own land with a value greater than $1000 these numbers are limited- between $1001-$2500 this is around 8-21% (8% in 1850, 16% in 1860 and 21% in 1870). This means that the majority of Black heads of household who were able to own land were restricted to the lowest valued real estate, but this is not true for White heads of household. In 1850, 97.87% of all Black land-owning heads of household owned less than $2500 worth of real estate, while only 46.62% of all White land-owning heads of household owned less than $2500 worth of real estate. This means that the wealthiest (which also tends to mean the most socially, economically and politically influential group) was almost exclusively white.  At the very highest “bin”- 10% of white land- owning heads of household owned real estate valued at more than $15,000, while 1% of Black land owners fell into this range. To get back to numbers, rather than percentages, this means that there were 810 white land-owners in this “bin” but only 3 Black land-owners in 1870.

As a side note, there is clearly some inflation here- the increasing number of land owners (of either race) in the higher bins may just be inflation, but it may also reflect social mobility- something that is hard to tell from this data.

To sum this all up- it was very difficult for Black individuals and families to acquire land. When they were successful, it often meant lower value land. However, even given this situation, some (3) were able to move into that highest “bin.” Although I would be very interested in these individuals, I would also suggest that being Black and owning any land, no matter how valuable, was quite a feat. On the flip side, this certainly does not mean that those Black folks who were unable to own land did anything wrong. Given the dire racism of the time (recall that Black men had the right to vote in PA up until the state constitution was rewritten in 1837/8), not owning land might simply have to do with not being in the right place at the right time.

We know that Jehu Nixon was a forgeman for the Potts family, well-known iron moguls and abolitionists. It is likely that he was able to purchase the land both because of his profession and because of his connection to a VERY wealthy family. Not all Black folks could claim such connections- indeed many were coming into the area directly from enslavement in the south. Jehu Nixon was born a free man in Pennsylvania (actually, he might have been born into slavery in PA, but I haven’t been able to prove that yet).

What is remarkable is that Jehu and Dinah, over the next few years, sold portions of their land to other Black families creating a small, rural Black community (at it’s peak it was around 10 houses and 45 people) well known for their connection to the Underground Railroad.

Walking Purchase Timeline

Below is an initial attempt at a timeline for the Walking Purchase. It should be seen as a draft and is a working document. While initially, it will be largely based upon information from Steven Craig Harper’s book, Promised Land, which is one of the best sources on the history and impact of this event, it will eventually include much more. There’s a lot of information so please click through the many events. Note that this version has been superseded by a version constructed in my Indigenous Pennsylvania course (Fall 2024). See the timeline here-

Allentown History

The following Timeline is a draft. The information in it is derived from Halma and Oplinger’s The Lehigh Valley : A Natural and Environmental History (especially Chapter 3) and Wikipedia’s Allentown page (which is pretty good, but far from perfect). This was created by student’s in Drs. Carter and Heiman’s Human Impacts on Local Ecology course during the Fall of 2021. It is intended to give students an overall perspective on the history of the Lehigh Valley and, more specifically, Allentown. Note that the Pre-Columbian/ Early Colonial portion definitely needs work.

Geohumanities Tools for Investigating Charcoal and Colliers.

Geohumanities Tools- April 3, 2021

All of these were discussed (or maybe just used) in Ben Carter’s presentation “Geohumanities tools for examining 19th century charcoal-making communities in eastern Pennsylvania” presented at Lafayette College, April 3, 2021. See

  • Pennsylvania Imagery Navigator-
    • Navigate and visualize aerial, satellite and LiDAR data for the entire state. All downloadable with a right click. Note that historic aerial images are not visualized, but are available for download.
  • Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access-
    • Much of the same material above (plus more) is available here. You can find downloadable data as well as WMS (and other) links for streaming GIS data into your GIS software
  • QGIS-
    • Full featured FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) GIS (Geographical Information System) software. Relatively user friendly “out-of-the-box” (but note that GIS programs are complicated, so you will likely need some training- see link to my videos below).
    • Can be greatly expanded with plugins (and Python scripts). My favorite plugins include:
      • QuickMapServices- provides access to a wide array of background maps, Google, OpenStreetMap, NASA, LandSat, USGS, etc.
        Azimuth and distance- for mapping “legal descriptions” of plots of land from deeds
      • Profile Tool- for examining the profile of the landscape (I use this to double check charcoal hearths)
      • MMQGIS- a wide array of tools (some of which are already provided), including Geocoding, which converts an address into a geolocated point (latitude/ longitude)
      • Want to learn how to use QGIS? Try this-
        • Note that the videos are organized into workshops. Start at the beginning.
    • Census and more. Similar to, but more limited than, Must sign up for an account, but not cost.
  • Qfield-
    • Android app designed to take your QGIS maps, layers, etc. into the field. Data is fully editable.
  • LASTools-
    • A simple tool for working with Lidar data (which comes in .las files). Not all components are open source, but there are workarounds. Note that this can also be used within the QGIS environment.
  • Zenodo-
    • Data publishing service. Data gets a DOI (and is therefore permanent), but can also be versioned. Located on the servers at CERN and available for all researchers.
      Some of my data-
  • University of Michigan’s The Encyclopedia of Diderot and D’Alembert-
    • Images of and text (most translated in English, but some still in French) of the Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (English: Encyclopedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts). Lots of great information about “crafts.”
  • Kemper’s book on charcoal-
  • Library of Congress Map Collection-
  • Mask R-CNN-
    • You’ll need lots of programming skills for this one. Used for Deep Learning. Sharing in case anyone is interested.
  • Transcribus-
    • Software for transcribing handwritten documents. I’ve only used this on a handful of deeds, but has produced amazing results so far.
  • Is there anything that you would like to share with the group? Share in the Comments.

Why Use Geopackage?

Recently, I rediscovered Geopackage. It’s a long story, but I tried to use them a while ago and it didn’t work so well. But, when I tried to use QField the other day to collect some data as I have done for years, it had -as you may not be surprised to hear- updated automatically. So, some things had changed – mostly for the better and easily adapted to. One of these was that I wasn’t able to load my DEM. It’s a bit of a monster (c. 20 miles long and a couple miles wide with resolution at around one meter- about a 1GB) and I have always used TIFF format (or more precisely GeoTiff). But, QField was now forcing me to convert to GeoPackage. So I shrugged and did it – easily in QGIS, which is where the maps that I use in QField are built.

But, this may have changed my life!

Alright, maybe that’s being a bit dramatic. Here’s the thing. I want to share data and publish it openly. My first experience with this was a bit of a bear (see my data in the Journal of Open Archaeology Data). What’s the problem, you ask? First, the standard file format for vectors (point, line, polygon) is shapefile (Do I hear some “boo”s?). Anyone who has used shapefiles knows that, in order to share shapefiles you need to share a minimum of three files (and usually more). If you have ten layers you would like to share with collaborators this means you need to share around 50 files. That’s just ridiculous! Not only is it an unnecessary hassle that makes it very difficult to collaborate and to version. But, the solution to that particular problem is a GeoJSON file. This solves a number of problems associated with shape files (see these links- 1, 2, and 3– for more information on  other issues with shapefiles). But, this still means that I need to share separate files for each layer, so for five layers, that’s five files. Not too bad, right. By the way, one of the major benefits of a GeoJSON file is that all of the information is internal to the file. That means, for example, I can publish the file online and stream the data (in my case, using QGIS– if you want to try it, you can use my data on charcoal hearths in PA). So, the data can live in an online repository such as Zenodo or Open Context and I can visualize that same data in a GIS program (I recommend QGIS) along with any other layers that live locally. Because the data is stored in a repository, I can rely upon it being consistent and so can my collaborators.

But, that still means that each layer is a separate layer and you cannot use GeoJSON for rasters (that’s not totally true, but it certainly was not designed for it). So, what would work better? How about a file that holds all of your rasters and your vectors AND styles them. That’s what GeoPackage does. It’s actually a “container” for a SQLite database, where each layer is a separate table. Rasters are stored as JPEGs and PNG– JPEGS provide lossless compression and PNGs are used at the edges because they support transparency.

Imagine this. I complete an archaeological project that involves georeferenced historical data, original LiDAR data (e.g., as LAS files), derivatives from the LiDAR (such as DEM, hillshade, slope analysis, etc.), points collected in the field, various polygons (in my case, State Game Lands boundaries, Appalachian Trail boundary, etc.) and lines (historic and modern roads, etc.). I want to archive everything. The way I did this the last time, I archived each file separately. The only link they had was a description (see this) that discussed how each layer was derived and interconnected. But, they still live as distinct, if tenously connected, digital objects. However, Geopackage allows me to bundle all of this together- remember it is a database- into a single package (i.e. file). I can then archive that file and everything REMAINS connected. So much easier for me and for any present or future collaborators and so much better for digital preservation . If I do another project, I can either archive a new Geopackage file or, if is additional research using the same data,  version the old one (retaining all versions, of course).

Lastly, as I mentioned above, it is very important for me to be able to archive data in an online repository AND be able to stream that data to my workstation (in QGIS). I could do this with GeoJSON, so I am a big fan. However, I have not been able to figure out how to do this with GeoPackage, but I’m still investigating.

I would also like to be able to store the files online, stream those to my workstation AND visualize them on the web. There is one tool that seems to be able to do this with Geopackage (see this) that promises to do this. You can use this link to see some a test of some of my data ( ).  Sometimes it does not load (I don’t know why), but even when it loads, it does not seem to support rasters, which is a big problem.

Anyone out there with any thoughts, suggestions or recommendations please comment below!

Juxtapose Test

This is a test of Juxtapose  by the Knight Lab at Northwestern University. The two images below show the present (Jan 2019) compared to an aerial photo from 1938. The furnace, casting house and the “dwelling house” have all been demolished, along with other local buildings. The original buildings were identified using a application for insurance  for the furnace complex (valued at $5500) from 1828.

Final Post- FLC on Open Scholarship

Over the past year, I have coordinated a Faculty Learning Community on Open Scholarship. In this post, I briefly discuss the progress on the project associated with my participation and some of the lessons that I have learned through organizing and participating in this FLC.

First, my project has morphed significantly over the year. What began as a project to test a particular method for sharing geospatial data openly (see description here) has changed into a particular publication strategy. The essential problem is that I was hoping to solve what I now consider two separate and distinct issues;  a means for collaborating openly and a means for publishing openly. Fundamentally, these two components of research should not be separated. That is, even after publication, collaboration should continue to be possible- this would be a model such as Wikipedia, where, at least theoretically, pages continue to get edited and refined to represent the best research.  That does not jive well with peer-review, which is essential both for the purposes of ensuring high quality research and for punctuating a research project. Publication should occur at significant points along the process of a collaborative project (even if it is open-ended). The key, of course, is knowing what those significant points are. Ideally, these points would be part of an original research strategy. However, my project, which involves looking at the historical landscape of charcoal production in the 19th century, began organically more from pedagogical considerations than from research. The focus was on  coordinating hands-on learning experiences for my students in courses such as Field Archaeology and Historical Ecology. It has become increasingly apparent, however, that I have reached an important milestone (and indeed probably reached this a year ago) and the work needs to be published. But, the key is to publish openly. Here’s my plan. I have completed an article for the journal, Historical Archaeology, as a part of it’s Technical Briefs series that discusses my work using open data and open source software to analyze LiDAR data to identify and map charcoal hearths. A description of the data will be published with the Journal of Open Archaeology Data and the actual data, I hope, will be published with Open Context. All three of these are peer-reviewed. The latter two are fully open access. The first is not, but it seemed to be the best location to publish the work.

This is the first FLC that I have lead. My biggest lesson may be that I tried to be too broad; open scholarship is a very wide net. This was intentional since I wanted to be sure to include everyone who was interested in “opening” their research (and associated scholarly practices) to a broader audience. Yet, that also meant that when it came down to choosing the readings, I tried to keep them as broad as possible. It is my impression that while each reading was broadly relevant to participants, they didn’t fit anyone particularly well. This broad net also means that everyone’s project was so very different that there was limited overlap. While it appears that participants were interested and excited about each others projects, it also means that there was limited interaction about these problems and I could provide little or no support. On the flip side, I’m not sure that I am personally interested in just one aspect of open scholarship, so I am not sure how I would reduce the scope of the FLC.

Lastly, I tried to keep communication as open as possible, but that meant that there were too many channels of communication and no one central “location” for participants to communicate.

I hope that participants in the FLC will provide additional feedback about the limitations of this FLC.

Openness and predatory journals.

This morning I read the article by Gina Kolata in the New York Times entitled, Many Academics Are Eager to Publish in Worthless Journals. The article discusses predatory journals, which are “journals” (if we bend that term beyond recognition) that are willing to publish anyone, have little to no editorial staff and do not employ peer-review (even if they claim to do so). Authors usually pay a fee to publish in these journals. These journals, therefore, promote psuedoscience- there is literally NO mechanism to ensure that the scholarship is well supported.

In the environment of “publish or perish,” some academics, Kolata reports, are publishing in these journals simply to get another publication. Publication in these non-peer-reviewed, unedited, “pay-to-play” journals does not appear to hinder academics ability to secure tenure. Indeed, some of academics who have published in predatory journals have received awards that are, at least partially, based upon their  publications. Additionally, it’s not terribly surprising that academics who work at institutions with high teaching loads but with limited support for research (such as at community colleges or liberal arts colleges- like Muhlenberg College, where I teach), but who are also required to publish, are particularly susceptible to these journals.

So, what does this have to do with openness? Most of these journals are “open”- that is, they have minimal overhead and, since very few (none?) produce expensive print copies; the only place you can find these publications is online. Additionally, I presume that no reputable library would purchase a subscription. Therefore, the primary (sole?) source of income is from the authors.

Predatory journals are producing articles with “research” that has not been peer-reviewed or are in reputable journals, books or from reputable publishers but the articles are available to the public. There is no way to ensure their veracity or accuracy. Some are even indexed in Google Scholar, which does not vet the journals it indexes. Not only is this poor scholarship, but it is also MORE available to the public than most peer-reviewed scholarship, which is closed-up tightly behind pay walls. A side note here… I headed over to Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers and Journals to try to find some of these articles. It was actually quite opaque. Many websites were nearly non-functional and actually finding articles was difficult. The concern expressed above may be more about future concerns than about what is available at present.

This post, therefore, though quite brief, is a call for more openness in research and scholarship- the more reliable research available the better. But, it is also a recognition that availability is clearly not enough. Openness is not enough. We, both as researchers and teachers, need to think deeply about how we teach our students to recognize the difference between reliable scholarship and  research that is not supported. Also, because a limited portion of the “public” goes to college, we (perhaps as institutions, not as individuals) also need to figure out ways to communicate this information outside of our physical and scholarly spaces.


A quick test of Harvard WorldMap

For a long time, I have been looking for a way to both collaborate and publish geospatial data and map. Harvard WorldMap may be the answer. It is certainly the best thing I have found so far. Although it is based upon GeoNode and you (perhaps with help) could get your own instance up and running, the key to Harvard WorldMap is that it also aggregates maps from other sources.

With Harvard WorldMap, users can upload layers- including vector (points, lines, polygons) and georeferenced raster (e.g., aerial photos or historic maps) layers. Formats are currently limited to shapefiles and GeoTiffs. Once uploaded, the user must add metadata. This is a very good thing and a vital step in the production and sharing of any type of data, but is often difficult or imperfect for geospatial data.

The user can manage who can view, edit and manage the layers. Until it is ready for sharing, the user can keep it private. If they want to collaborate with others, they can allow only those individuals view, edit or edit and manage permission.

Once added, layers can be downloaded in a number of useful formats (Zipped Shapefile, GML 2.0, GML 3.1.1, CSV, Excel, GeoJSON, GeoTIFF, JPEG, PDF, PNG, and KML). Layers can also be streamed to your desktop GIS program (you are using QGIS, right?) via Web Mapping Service (WMS). This means that, to make other layers in your desktop program you can have the same data as all of your collaborators streaming rather than from a file on your computer.

Layers can be aggregated into maps, for which access can also be restricted or not in the same way as layers. You can add your layers, but you can also use their search engine to find layers that are connected to Harvard WorldMap, such as maps from USGS or from ESRI. The selection is not yet amazing, but I was able to find a few maps for my work in Ecuador that I had not found elsewhere.

Vector layers can be styled by changing the marker shape, color, size and label.

This map can then be published. Here’s a test of some data collected by my students and I regarding charcoal production on the Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania. Take a look. Note that you can change the layers (both my uploaded layers and the basemap).