Big Data Mapping Projects

A couple of interesting resources have been launched recently which attempt to use maps to read cities’ literary histories.

LitLong, launched at the end of last month, still has several of its major features in development, but it currently allows the user to see the locations mentioned in a large corpus of texts onto a map of Edinburgh.  It’s ‘the visual, interactive output of the Palimpsest project, a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures; the School of Informatics; the University of St Andrews’ SACHI research group; and EDINA.’  This is an example of what can be done by bringing together a number of big, fairly messy data sets – I’m looking forward to having a bit of a play around with it and seeing what it can do, and also to hearing how the project team plan to develop it further.

Mapping Emotions in Victorian London is a Stanford Literary Lab project supported by the Mellon Foundation and hosted on Historypin.  In the words of its ‘About’ page: ‘The project has invited anonymous participants to annotate whether passages drawn from novels, published mainly in the Victorian era, represented London places in a fearful, happy, or unemotional manner.  This data from the crowd allowed us to generate the maps you find here, revealing a previously unseen emotional geography of Victorian London.’  Unlike many crowdsourced projects, this one used a payment model, hiring labour from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.  This has a really nice map overlay, built using Ordinance Survey maps from the National Library of Scotland, and some interesting masks for examining different aspects of the city.  At the moment, though, it seems quite difficult to get an kind of overall sense of what texts are used on the site, how these were selected and what the rationale for including or excluding things was.  Hopefully the nature of the emotional geography the project examines will become clearer when the team publish more of their findings.

The Vere Street Coterie

has just put up an interesting post on the White Swan in Vere Street, which operated as a male brothel (or ‘molly house’) for about six months early in 1810.  It’s not entirely clear to me at this point which building on Vere Street the White Swan was, but Vere Street itself was a couple of blocks north of Drury Lane Theatre, near the entertainments clustered around Covent Garden, the bustling trade of the Strand and just west of the Inns of Court and the Inns of Chancery, the centre of the business of the law in London.  The street was demolished in the 1900s to make way for Kingsway.

Get directionsExport as KML for Google Earth/Google MapsOpen standalone map in fullscreen modeCreate QR code image for standalone map in fullscreen modeExport as GeoJSONExport as GeoRSSExport as ARML for Wikitude Augmented-Reality browser
White Swan, Vere Street

loading map - please wait...

White Swan, Vere Street 51.514371, -0.118456 Vere Street, the location of the White Swan, which operated as a molly house for around six months early in 1810.


Turley has just published a historical crime novel, The Cunning House, which takes the Vere Street coterie as one of its centres.  You can also find out more in Rictor Norton’s online essay on the coterie and its contexts, which includes details of the principal primary sources.