Visualizing Historical Data with the MetroBoston DataCommon

historic mapping

Late last year, the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Mass., offered a workshop titled “How to Do History with Online Mapping Tools” as part of a series related to the Museum and Library’s collection of historic maps. The workshop was sponsored by the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation.

In the workshop, participants learned how to use online tools to consult and create maps that chart Metro Boston area history. The presenters were Jessie Partridge from the MetroBoston DataCommon, a provider of free applications that make it possible to map data, and Joanne Riley, University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections in the Healey Library at UMass Boston.

Both presenters helped lay historians, data fans, and map enthusiasts discover how visualizations of data and space related to our region can help us understand our history.

Workshop materials: Joanne Riley’s presentation and handout; Jessie Partridge’s presentation.

One collaborative example from the workshop, using data from the records of the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters:

View Larger Visualization

View Larger Visualization

View Larger Visualization

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email

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