Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sho’ah’s (שואה) Lasting Impact: Mapping Jewish Migration

Sho’ah’s (שואה) Lasting Impact: Mapping Jewish Migration:

As we did last year with Mapping the Afghan Population in the US ( see background), the Information Literacy Librarian and I teamed up to create a project that will integrate numeric and spatial resources into the freshman English Composition courses.

All sections of Freshman Composition I (app. 60) are reading Maus: A Survivor's Tale, by Art Spiegelman. As of this moment, 17 sections have signed up to bring their class in to use the interactive map we designed. This is a whole lot of students who will get exposed to detailed aspects of GIS and geography. I love it.

The Lesson: GIS & Information Literacy
The lesson, from which we hope to publish results, is measuring the ability of interactive GIS and multimedia to enhance students' ability to select a research topic/question. The students first read a bio from Holocaust survivor Madeline Deutsch and write a research topic. Then, we add two additional immersive layers of information. First we play a brief multimedia clip of Madeline describing her ordeal and its aftermath. Second, we lead them through an exercise where they explore Madeline's life before, during, and after the war using the interactive map we created.

We met with the first two classes this morning and our impression is that it was very successful. The instructor agreed and seemed very enthusiastic, which is always a good thing.

Other Uses?
Of course. I am currently working with numerous faculty on campus who teach or whose research interests include WW II or the Holocaust. However, it was the certainty of exposing so many freshman to these types of resources that made this project one of our highest priorities last summer. Perhaps researchers and/or educators outside of our fair university may have a use as well.

Data Sources
Jewish population figures were gathered from the American Jewish Society Yearbook. Big thanks to Texas Christian University Library for loaning them to us. The map features were gathered from historical maps available from the U.S. Holocaust Museum. Historical world shapefiles provided by

What's Under the Hood?
Technically, the GIS data is stored in an SDE database (Oracle) and is being published as a web service via ArcIMS. Using ASP.NET and the Google Maps API, we integrate the ArcIMS layers with Google Maps and voila...

(Same thanks as last year.)

Updates from the interface used last year with Mapping the Afghan Population:
  1. Drop-down menu for all features selected to activate individual pins
  2. Integrate HTML markup into Google info-windows
  3. 'Loading' animation during ASP.NET postback
  4. Restructured XML database to speed server-side processing
  5. Added ability to zoom to a particular X,Y,Zoom level when a particular background map is selected


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