Mapping the Pearl Incident: Digital Project Draft

Hi all! Since my last update about my digital project, I have decided to focus on the enslaved individuals involved in the Pearl incident for my mapping endeavor. I originally wanted to focus on one or two specific individuals, but I am worried that I would be trying to add too much information into the narrative. I decided to use the narrative to give context to the Pearl incident more broadly, and then use the maps to put more detailed information about individuals involved in the Pearl incident that a reader can explore.

Link to project website.

I tried using StoryMaps as well as a combination of Google My Maps and WordPress to see which option would be easier to use. At first, I enjoyed using My Maps over ArcGIS. It was easier to pin locations, pins assets, and edit textual information. When I tried to draw lines to demonstrate movement of the Pearl schooner down the Potomac River, I also found that My Maps was more intuitive and easier to use since it has a simpler interface.

The beginnings of my project showing the route of the Pearl schooner in Google My Maps and WordPress. I thought both interfaces were easy to use, and I like them a lot. However, it was easier for me to combine maps and narrative with the ArcGIS platform.

However, I didn’t like the way that the maps were embedded into WordPress. I found it more difficult to interact with them, and the editing process also seemed more difficult. If I wanted to edit on both platforms simultaneously, it seemed liked I had to update the embedded code for the map on WordPress each time. As a result, I decided to use StoryMaps as the host for my project. After some trial and error, I was able to do the same tasks that I completed in My Maps while also integrating the information into a narrative on StoryMaps.

This is the same route create with ArcGIS. In StoryMaps, I liked having the ability to include narrative text in blocks on the side. It also seemed a little easier to explore the map with this interface.

For my research, I found a couple of addresses where the Pearl’s passengers may have lived in a report called “The Operation of the Underground Railroad in Washington, D.C., c. 1800-1860.” It was researched and compiled by Hilary Russell for the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. and the National Park Service. Since some of the roads no longer exist, I tried my best to use older maps of D.C. and match up the locations by referencing Google Maps. I tried to find where the addresses may be located and pinned them on an ArcGIS map.

For each pin, I included the names of the Pearl passengers who lived there as well as information about their enslaver and the address of the location. I like how this layer of the map gives a sample of the places where the Pearl passengers traveled to get to the schooner, however, I wish there were more locations or information that I could include about the individuals. If I find more information as I continue researching, I hope to add more individuals to the map.

I thought it would be interesting to overlay a map of D.C. c.1840s onto the ArcGIS map. It seems like it can be done since other maps like Mapping Early Washington, D.C., Law & Family: 1822 have done it before. However, I could not figure out how to do it. I’m guessing it may be a feature of a different version of ArcGIS?

In this map, I thought it was cool to see the overlay of the map of D.C. ca. 1820s.

At this stage of the draft, I feel like my narrative understanding and mapping of the Pearl incident itself is at a pretty good place, but my understanding of the aftermath definitely needs more detail. Luckily, I recently found more research that gives details about the slave traders who purchased some of the Pearl fugitives than I expected. For the draft, the content is very sparse, but I’ve mapped out the types of details that I want to include in the maps. As I continue working towards the final project, I’m planning to add more detail in the maps about the enslaved individuals’ experiences after returning to D.C. and being resold into the slave trade.

4 Replies to “Mapping the Pearl Incident: Digital Project Draft”

  1. Mia, I love this! I think the Pearl Incident is fascinating and important to discuss. This can also be a really great asset to pair with your WHHA article!

  2. I thought the overlay of the D.C. map from 1820 was cool to see. I think the topic of the slave trade is an interesting one for this kind of project. Nice post!

  3. Hi Mia, this is such a cool topic! I’m sorry to hear of your platform struggles but I think StoryMaps works well with what you’re trying to achieve. I wonder if there is a way to make you sidecars (sidebars? I’m not entirely sure what that feature is called) floating, so the viewers can see your maps a little bit easier instead of having the text cover it. I really like your section where you show the path taken by Pearl passengers and their planned path. I also like your idea of a footnotes section–I found citing my page difficult but you seem to have found a good way to do it. I’m excited to see what you end up with!

  4. This is already a really impressive project! You are using some rather sophisticated and advanced features from the StoryMaps platform and I think it’s working rather well.

    It is challenging to get images of historical maps to work as “slippy maps” that you can use in these kinds of platforms. If you are curious to look into it more, the thing you need to do is get the image georectified and then sort through how to upload the georectified map into the platform. It’s entirely possible that the version of StoryMaps you have access to doesn’t support that. If you are curious in exploring that more, I believe that Old maps Online ( ) has some tools on it that support warping maps to make them georectified.

    All of this said, I think you are doing great work and that as you continue ironing out some of the bits on your conclusions that you are really well set up for creating a very interesting and engaging resource.

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