The past three month have passed quickly and, unfortunately, I haven’t accomplished much towards creating my Taraco Peninsula webmapping project. Although I haven’t done as much work on creating the actual website yet, I have been spending a lot of time reading, writing, and thinking about the people and landscapes of the Taraco Peninsula – particularly through writing grant proposals and working on my book. All of this work has given me ideas of what I should include in the website and has reinforced the need for it as we begin the next phase of our field work on the peninsula this summer.

I spent the past few months mostly “playing” around with some of the programs and tools that I learned about in the Institute that I think can be used for make my webmapping project. (Some of them have even helped me with other projects I’ve been working on!)

The first task I set out to do was gather all of the various sources of spatial data about the peninsula that the Taraco Archaeological Project has accumulated in its 20+ years of existence. We’ve had several individuals acquire publicly available spatial data such as digital elevation models and satellite imagery. The project has also created many maps of archaeological sites and the surrounding areas. I now have a wealth of spatial imagery, and so my next goal is to figure out which of these might be most useful for my website and how I convert them into formats amendable to being integrated into the website. One of the reasons I want to do this is because although places like Google Earth, MapBox and CartoDB have some great looking “maps”, they don’t contain all of the information I need like roads and town names, or information such as soil or vegetation types. I discovered this in my early exploration of the programs I thought might be useful for my project.

I started by examining the project I mentioned in my first blog post, Ieldran, which Katy Meyers developed by modifying a webmapping template called Bootleaf developed by Bryan McBride. I began by looking through her code on GitHub, and whoa! She made some pretty substantial changes to Bootleaf, which are well beyond my capabilities and time availability. I also realized my project is a bit different than Katy’s because while I do hope to have data points with information (as she does for different types of mortuary remains), she uses one single basemap, and I want to use at least two (going to be conservative to start, but hopefully more eventually).

I then turned to the program MapBox, which Brian Geyer taught us about at the Institute. It has several different base maps built in that look quite nice, two of which I include here. I started a project for the peninsula using the most basic tools. I even tried to import some data points (UTM coordinates of archaeological sites) and plot them on the base map. The points did not end up on the peninsula, I’m not sure what I did wrong, but I also didn’t spend much time investigating.

Satellite image of the Taraco Peninsula, Bolivia created in MapBox

Satellite image of the Taraco Peninsula, Bolivia created in MapBox

Topographic map of the Taraco Peninsula, Bolivia created in MapBox.

Topographic map of the Taraco Peninsula, Bolivia created in MapBox.

In exploring MapBox, though, I realized that I would actually like to have more control over what the look and information available on the base map. This lead me to explore another program that came up several times in the Institute: QGIS. The Taraco Archaeological Project has several ArcGIS projects that different individuals developed for theses and other smaller projects. Since I’m a Mac user and generally like the idea of Open Source programs, I downloaded QGIS and began to fiddle with it. I didn’t get very far, though! In reading the posts today, I’m happy to see that Megan Perry has gone through a similar process, so I plan to seek her help in creating base images that can be placed into MapBox (which she is using) or other webmapping programs. One of my mentors, Brian Geyer, suggested that I try Leaflet because it provides good tools for creating clickable items on maps that direct people to pages with additional information. I haven’t explored it yet but plan to do so as I move forward.

After watching the past three months fly by, I also took some time to create a timetable and workflow in order to make sure that I stay on task in the coming months. I’ll be doing fieldwork in Bolivia in June and July and so need to have the basics of the website done by then. This will give me the opportunity to test it out there with our Bolivian collaborators. I hadn’t really thought about the website from the perspective of mobile devices but I think that might actually be the most important in order to make this a useful site.

To make me even more accountable, I’m going to share with you all my goal for February!
-Create the homepage for the website: This will include the initial view of peninsula, mostly likely a satellite image with roads and the names of the main communities and known places of interest. It will include the basic design elements (fonts, layout) and some of the most basic information about the site and place. With this complete, I can then begin to create the elements that visitors will be able to explore through this initial portal.