ECCA—Project Scope

Based upon a visualization and enhancement of the data in the ECPP, through the ECCA we have created dynamic, diachronic, and interactive maps showing the movement of California Natives to the missions, the resettlement of their lands by colonists, and the new ways that Spaniards and Mexicans bounded and used the land. Thus, while our study has focused on colonial California, the ECCA illustrates in stark detail colonial processes that have unfolded across the globe and involved millions of people over five centuries. In a broader context, the spatio-temporal mapping of multiple dimensions of demographic and geographic change over time developed by ECCA provides a technical model for the study of dramatic changes that have occurred across the globe. Yet the project goes beyond the creation of a powerful new tool for understanding change in the early modern period. It challenges the false certainty of traditional mapping techniques, embraces spatial and temporal ambiguities, and pioneers new methods of integrating primary source materials into diachronic web-based visualizations.

In its conceptualization and implementation, the ECCA pioneers techniques that visualize change over time and deploy spatio-temporal technologies. It links historical data to dynamic maps, builds collaborations between California Natives, historians, anthropologists, educators, and experts in data management and interface design, and facilitates innovative understandings of the impacts of Spanish settlement upon California’s Native peoples. These partnerships and visualizations can serve as models for the study of colonial regions and processes elsewhere in the world. The ECCA, by integrating a range of sources and technologies, enables students and scholars to better understand how European colonization affected Native peoples. It illustrates and examines relationships between time and space. In doing so it shows how adding the spatial component to temporal analysis leads to a deepening of humanistic inquiry and a reformulation of the inquiry itself. Finally, the ECCA offers new ways of mapping spatial and temporal uncertainty and contested data.

An Interdisciplinary and Collaborative Approach

The ECCA’s interactive website integrates and manages historical resources, visually illustrates historical data related to California between 1769 and 1850, displays research results in the form of maps and other visualizations, and, through various educational tools, educates students from elementary school to the university classroom. This project is interdisciplinary and collaborative; it draws upon the expertise of research scholars, librarians, archivists, software engineers, technical experts, California Natives, and primary school teachers. Fundamentally, the project represents a new partnership between existing programs. It combines the extensive and unique database of the Early California Population Project (ECPP) with the technical expertise of the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI) to enable new understandings of California and its peoples between the founding of California’s first mission in 1769 and the admission of California into the Union in 1850. Since beginning the project in 2008, our intent has been to create an innovative website that improves how we understand a pivotal epoch in California history, visualizes and explores Indigenous perspectives on these events, and demonstrates to humanists how emergent technologies can deepen and foster humanistic inquiry.

More specifically, the ECCA visualizes historical transformations in California before 1850 by mapping the migration of Natives from their native villages to Franciscan missions, the immigration of soldiers and settlers to California from northern Mexico, the initiation and growth of domestic agriculture and animal husbandry at the missions, and the transfer of huge parcels of land from California Natives to Spanish and Mexican landholders. The ECCA does not merely deliver material and ideas that are already available in print. Rather, it is creating new knowledge about where Native peoples lived in California, the extent to which colonization disrupted their lives, and how the human and social geography of much of California was radically altered in the century after 1769.

Funding and Building the ECCA

The ECCA has been supported by two National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Digital History Start-Up grants and a UCR Chancellor’s Initiative grant. This support allowed the ECCA to assemble our team of scholars and consultants, and it allowed us to begin our work. With Level I funding, the ECCA team created a Phase I website with Google Earth visualizations. The team focused on two central California missions, San Carlos Borromeo and San Juan Bautista. For San Carlos, the team relied upon single locations for Native villages. In adding San Juan Bautista to the study, the team plotted multiple locations for villages and devised a register that explains the sources of information for this mapping as well as the relative certainty of these locations. In this work, the team was not simply visualizing existing information but generating new knowledge about village locations and their movements over time. Furthermore, ECCA staff created in this new prototype a means by which simply clicking the cursor on a Native village allows access to basic information on Natives who lived in these villages. An innovative implementation of the Google Earth time bar showed the movement of Natives to missions during every year until the village was in all likelihood depopulated. ECCA staff added to the website geo-registrations of historic maps and boundaries of ranchos created in California during the Spanish and Mexican periods. Thus, with Level I funding the ECCA devised new ways to visualize and understand historical transformations that heretofore had only been represented on paper and in ways that did not adequately consider spatial and temporal relationships.

With Level II funding, ECCA staff enhanced the project’s IT infrastructure by expanding the project database, setting up the initial website, and initiating use of the ECAI Data Portal for sustainably hosting datasets. Staff created more complex visualizations, including the integrated visualization for Los Angeles, which includes four missions and multiple Native group affiliations. With the help of Stephen O’Neil and local Native consultants, the team mapped locations for villages in the Los Angeles.9 Staff increased the project’s complexity by addressing the uncertainty and ambiguity issues surrounding native village locations. The ECCA fostered partnerships with UCLA’s National Center for History in the Schools (NCHS) to develop teaching applications for the ECCA and with the Stanford Spatial History Project to provide peer review and a visualization of Native migration to the missions of the Los Angeles region. Most important, in Phase II we constructed a Google Earth dynamic map for the LA region that is now our prototype as we go forward. The prototype incorporates five distinct datasets with customized cartographic representation, direct links to data source information, related resources and contextual information, and interactive control of the time range displayed. This prototype can be displayed as a video sequence. At the time we developed our project, Google Earth provided the most flexible platform for developing visualizations, which incorporate a timeline and diverse data layers while maintaining the data in an open source sustainable format and enabling interactive display on the web.

In this new map we tested and trouble-shot the implementation of the following data layers: California Native tribal regions and village locations; locations for four missions (including place of establishment and relocation); active and accessible baptism records for Natives from villages and those born at the missions; founding dates; and boundaries and online maps of Spanish and Mexican ranchos. We discovered that the incorporation of four missions simultaneously added significant complexity and interpretive power to the project but did not pose insuperable technological challenges. We deployed new spatial visualization techniques including Google Fusion maps to create customized visualizations for subsets of the data. As we learned in this second phase of our work, the single wave of baptisms originating at villages closest to missions and spreading to those farther away over time as seen in the Phase I work for Central California was not apparent in the Los Angeles region. Instead we discovered that Natives from the same village often went to different missions depending on their date of migration.

To illustrate this complexity, we developed new symbols to indicate which mission registered baptisms from a particular village and we implemented a special interface to explore this facet of Native migration. Documenting mission-born baptisms that were orders of magnitude larger than those of the individual villages posed a new challenge, which we have currently solved by adding to our visualization vertical polygons representing the population of each mission. This feature allowed us to represent what had not been seen before: the growth of the mission-born population as it outnumbered new recruits from villages. We intend to explore additional ways of displaying population and other mission information, such as production of commodities that change in parallel with the spatial changes being represented on the map.

In Phase II we also learned yet again how adding a spatial component to temporal analysis leads to new levels of inquiry. In the 1820s and 1830s, Natives came to the missions from the interior of California, an area far less affected than the coastal region by the growth of mission agriculture and livestock and the creation of Spanish and Mexican ranchos. Thus, we are now asking: If mission encroachment on Native subsistence drove Native movement to the coastal missions before 1820, what led Natives from the interior of California to the missions after 1820? Furthermore, now that we can see the spatial and temporal patterns of mission recruitment for the regions of Monterey and Los Angeles, we have begun to ask how these patterns might differ from those of the recruitment areas of missions in San Diego, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco, all regions with different tribal organizations, natural environments, Spanish settlement, and cultural diversity. During Phase II we also held community meetings with Southern California Native groups to ensure our work is respectful and supportive of their interests. We will continue this practice in the expansion of the project to additional regions. Finally, during our Level II work we developed a project website. This portal provides access to data created and collected by the project as well as links to project resources and documentation of project methodology. It displays the various prototypes developed as well as various experiments with map design. Since the technology of visualizations is changing rapidly, we created multiple trial visualizations to provide users many possible views on the past. In addition, each primary dataset used in the integrated maps is displayed independently to highlight the flexibility of the system and potential for the development of customized web interfaces for research and curriculum development.

 
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