Web Map Project: Visualizing Immigration

For my map project, I created a Google Maps that shows some of the major ports for Eastern European immigrants at the turn of the 20th century, as well as some of the larger departure ports in Europe. While simple, I think that this is a useful way of looking at topics relating to immigration, considering that immigration is all about movement: using a map helps people to visualize this more easily.

I used Google Maps primarily because I’m already familiar with it, and because most potential users would be too. I think this is an important consideration when creating digital projects, in terms of increasing ease of access. While this creates a feedback loop of sorts (where users are losing an opportunity to learn about new technologies) and Carto has different features, for the purposes of my map, I would want users to focus on analyzing the content rather than having to wade through learning how to use a different site, such as the beautiful but opaque The Knotted Line. (Also, to be honest, I had a lot of difficulties navigating Carto’s website!)

I think one of the biggest takeaways from this map is how large immigrant populations correspond with geographic convenience. It makes perfect sense that huge populations of immigrants lived in East Coast cities like New York and Philadelphia because those are the ports that they enter. However, this map helps to demonstrate why those East Coast ports were so popular: because the distances make sense to go from Latvia, to England/Netherlands, to America’s NE coast. One can also see why other programs, like the Galveston Plan, were so important in terms of redistributing immigrants throughout the rest of the country.

Taking this project further, I would be interested in incorporating train lines that brought immigrants to populous inland cities, such as Chicago. How far west did immigrants settle? It would be interesting to compare this with Asian immigrants entering through Angel Island and other West Coast ports, although legislative restrictions such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 directly impact the number of incoming immigrants. It would also be interesting to see how these numbers and paths change over time, similar to the New York Times’s Immigration Explorer.

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