Smithsonian Internship 6

My coursework covers digital skills such as mapping, web publishing and text analysis as well as a public history course and learning and teaching history in the digital age. My internship project is mapping the destroyed cultural heritage sites of Syria and other war-torn countries. Thanks to the internship, I have refined my mapping skills by using JavaScript programming language and my coursework served as a stepping stone for my further understanding of mapping.

My coursework set me on the path and my internship leads me to go further on the path. The major mapping tool I learned in class is It can create data visualization upon a map after you upload geospatial data. I believe it can handle most of mapping work. However, due to the nature of my internship project, Kepler falls short to meet our needs. For example, we would like a number in the center of cluster while Kepler shows the intensity only by the size of the circles. Many destroyed sites share the same coordinates but Kepler can only show the information of the last site listed in the dataset while with coding, there can be a spiderifier effect in which multiple popup boxes fan out like spider legs to show information of all sites. So, the team decides to code on Mapbox maps instead of using Kepler gl which has many pre-set functions.

It feels like you are changing from a guest who can order combos on the menu to a chef who need to cook the food by himself to make the perfect dish he hopes for. It is interesting to figure out how Kepler gl developers work on the backstage when I put my hands on coding a map, in professional terms, it is called front-end web development, converting data to a graphical interface. So, in the past few months, I got myself into a web developer’s world: I learned and used JavaScript, Mapbox Maps, code editor, Github, formats of the data that work best for maps and where to make them, none of which in my expectation when I took my coursework. My practice used to make a dataset which met the requirements of Kepler and upload it. Thanks to my internship, I get a chance to see a broader world of mapping and it’s exciting to design your own map with total freedom of customization. Using JavaScript, I made choropleth maps, cluster maps, popup boxes on maps etc. After many trials, the team decides to use a cluster map with a few special effects on it.

I learned that besides on Syria, there will be mapping on Mali and Bosnia. I believe our maps can attract the public very well because of its interactive features. I look forward to the final products and wish those countries had less conflicts in the future.









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