Data Visualization: A New Way to See Historical Records in the AFL-CIO Archive

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In the outreach phase of the Advancing Workers’ Rights grant, a three-year project that digitized over 90,000 pages of records from the AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department, creating social media and blog posts about the newly-available materials resulted in a quest for different ways to represent the materials in a unique, interesting, and user-friendly way. This search led us to explore data visualizations, for which a broad spectrum of graphical representations of information and data is possible. Two archivists discuss how a collaboration between student assistants and SCUA staff resulted in the creation of a series of data visualizations - maps, word clouds, and timeline graphs - that transformed the metadata from the digitized materials into unique and useful graphics. The graphics provide a new point of entry into the collection by using freely available tools like DataWrapper and Voyant, and the existing capabilities of Excel. The dataset originally exported from ArchivesSpace for use in Archelon was used for this outreach project and provides an example of how existing datasets can be reused to analyze collection materials in new ways. After applying these methods and tools to the materials selected for digitization, about 30% of the AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department records, we will share additional visualizations that comprise the complete records of the collection for further comparison and analysis of this approach.



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