Queens Neighborhood Content in Oral Histories: A Data Visualization

The Queens Memory team wanted to know how well the interviews in our collections represent life in every corner of our borough. This project provides a graphical representation of the neighborhoods discussed during the interviews.

Queens, New York City

This project was done for Queens Memory through the Tech Incubator at Queens College.

Neighborhood information is drawn from pre-interview, interview, and post-interview interactions with interviewees. Information is drawn both from a content analysis of their recorded interviews and from survey information gathered from participants about what areas they plan to, or have discussed in their interviews.

  • Archiving

Neighborhoods mentioned by name, or described without being named, are gathered in the Queens Memory’s processing spreadsheets, tracking the submission, processing and publication of all new interviews. That spreadsheet contains the dataset used by Maxwell Tawiah at the QC Tech Incubator to display on a map using the Google Maps API and JavaScript.

A “heat map” showing the concentration of interview content in each Queens neighborhood across the borough.

In early iterations of the heat map, there were misleading pinpoints on the map, making it appear that we were showing exact locations discussed in the interviews. In later iterations, Maxwell was able to blur the outlines of the pinpoints so they depicted the right level of precision. The locations listed in the dataset are simply neighborhood names, not precise addresses or intersections.

Another lesson learned is that people refer to their neighborhoods in slightly different language than what is written on the map. For example, someone might say they are from “Jamaica,” when the area they are discussing in their interview might be entirely in “South Jamaica,” which is a level of specificity rarely used in casual speech.

Maxwell Tawiah from the Queens College Tech Incubator served as the developer of this visualization. The dataset has been gathered over time by Queens Memory staff and volunteers including (but not limited to) Priscilla Singh, Michael Chui, Josselyn Atahualpa, Richard Lee, Dacia Metes, Aimai Reporter, and Meral Agish.


June 2010

Queens Memory Project interviews begin. Data about places discussed in interviews gathered in indices created for interviews.

October 2012

Archival processing spreadsheet created to track oral history metadata, including neighborhoods discussed during interviews.

October 2023

Maxwell Tawiah began development of the map visualization design.

Queens Public Library



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