New Plans

I am pleased to announce that this summer I am a John B. Hurford ’60 Humanities Center Summer Research Fellow.

A little bit more about the fellowship in general:

“These competitive grants are designed to support thesis-related or otherwise substantive research projects, enabling students to spend the summer visiting archives, learning a language necessary to scholarship, or dedicating their time to a focused program of reading.” Click here to learn more about the center and my fellowship.


I am excited to say the least. This is nerd, history-lover, religion major, anthropologist heaven. I am being PAID to research a topic of my choice to enhance my thesis*! Yes, it’s pretty great! I am very excited.

The not so exciting part were my housing issues and impediments. Originally, I had planned to stay at Haverford and work in the library on my research. But after housing shenanigans (I was 20th on the waitlist for an apartment, what!?) , I quickly (meaning, I stayed up all night researching possible options because I was so stressed) found a different option (drum roll). I will be living in Cincinnati in the Sisterhood Dorm at  Hebrew Union College. I will spend my days at the American Jewish Archives, literally across the parking lot from where I’m staying. Perfect, right?!

Why the American Jewish Archives (AJA)?

As you’ll read below, my thesis is VERY broadly about Jewish identity in the Southern United States.

“Today the AJA houses over ten million pages of documentation. It contains nearly 8,000 linear feet of archives, manuscripts, nearprint materials, photographs, audio and video tape, microfilm, and genealogical materials. The AJA exists to preserve the continuity of Jewish life and learning for future generations and aspires to serve scholars, educators, students, and researchers of all backgrounds and beliefs.” (See more here)

More specifically, the AJA has one of the finest collections of Southern Jewish archives in the world.

Now what exactly is my thesis about?  To answer the first question, I leave you with my proposal that I used to apply for the fellowship. (Also know that I was answering specific questions and had a limited word count, so if you’re confused that should be the reason).

So, those are my new plans. I am very excited and feel very fortunate to have this unique opportunity. I will spend May 31-Aug 1 in Cincinnati. In the meantime, I have 1 full week of classes left, finals, and then I leave for Israel on May 13 for my cousin’s wedding. I plan on posting regularly this summer. So its go, go, go. Life is exciting, I cannot complain.

*Every Haverford student is required to write a thesis as part of their graduation requirement. The thesis counts as a class and is usually structured as a year long seminar within your major. At Haverford, its a big deal and people take thesis writing seriously.



Post Roads 1839


Before I begin: PLEASE NOTE: I am also looking for paid summer internships that have  a map making component. I can send my resume and anything else if you are interested. Tweet, email, you know the drill…

Hi Everyone,

It has been a while. Not only did I complete my first semester of junior year, but I have been mastering the art of making interactive maps, basic javascript, html, d3, and leaflet. Plus life… but I was determined to finish these post roads for Elijah Meeks and Jason Heppler.

A little more info. These are based off the map from 1839 by David H. Burr from
The American atlas, exhibiting the post offices, post roads, rail roads, canals, and the physical & political divisions of the United States of North America” found on the Library of Congress’ website.  As I may have already discussed in a previous post, David H. Burr was the official topographer for the U.S. House of Representatives. Because of this, I presume that the atlas was probably the standard and the authority for the transportation networks of the United States at that time. Unlike my previous post road map, where I easily georectified one map on top of the map of the modern U.S.,this was much more complicated. Being an atlas, this map was in multiple pages. I was forced to first crop each page on photoshop so there would be no extraneous parts. Then, starting with New England, I not only georectified the 1839 map to the modern United States, but also to its neighboring 1839 state maps. Because many of the post roads were connected between states, I needed to ensure that they matched up to one another, not just the modern day map.

This  is the top of West Virginia connecting to Ohio and Pennsylvania. All three states were on different pages of the atlas, yet they all had roads that connected to one another.

Though this shapefile  isn’t as accurate as with the other post road map, it is interesting to compare the map from 1851 to 1839 and see the development of the transportation networks in the United States. Again, on this map, you see the spider web-like patterns, where a large city is the center of the web, with many different roads expelling from it.

See how above, the red-blue dot in the center has with roads expelling from it, similar to the shape of as spider web? Here, the dot represents Nashville, Tennessee.
See how above, the red-blue dot in the center has with roads expelling from it, similar to the shape of as spider web? Here, the dot represents Nashville, Tennessee.

In order to upload this files to ArcGIS online and to fully see the shapefile, I had to dissolve the lines into one large polyline. You have the option to either download the dissolved or undissolved shapefile and also to view the dissolved or undissolved feature layer.

Dissolved Shapefile –

Undissolved Shapefile –

Creative Commons License
1839 David H. Burr Post Roads by Laura Newman Eckstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

Updated Casino Map

Almost every Friday since September, Laurie Allen, a Digital Librarian at Haverford College has worked with me to improve my interactive mapping skills. I have been inspired to learn JavaScript, leaflet, some html, some css, some mapbox, some cartodb, and am now working on perfecting my d3 skills. For my first project, we took my casino map and after much tweaking came up with this gem. This map, coding, and hard work are dedicated to Laurie;  her help, faith in my abilities, and eagerness to explore inspire me to keep on making maps.


American Indian and Alaskan Native Casinos by Laura Newman Eckstein. Dedicated to Laurie Allen, Librarian, Haverford College, November 16, 2014

Got Pesticides?

This is a project that I completed for my final in my first GIS course. I talked to Dr. Steve Brown at the University of Georgia extension service and found that it may have been better to use data on cropland rather than total agricultural land. (Agricultural land in the USDA census can be divided into cropland and pastureland). However, the USDA does not have specific data on pesticides broken into these categories, only for the general agricultural land category. To learn more about the census click here! Enjoy!


Creative Commons License
Got Pesticides? by Laura Newman Eckstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Casino Map

This is a map I created of Alaskan Native and American Indian Casinos in the United States. I retrieved the data from the National Indian Gaming Commission. Here’s the list. Click here for the full map

Creative Commons License
Casino Map by Laura Newman Eckstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Post Road Data

The Post Road data was created during my time as a Tri-college digital humanities intern with the Viral Texts Project at Northeastern University. I used two maps  from the Library of Congress, both created by the official topographer to the Post Office Department, Henry A. Burr. Burr was the first topographer for the Post Office Department. Before, the government would employ commercial and private firms to create maps for the Post Office Department, but with Burr’s position it was his responsibility to make all maps relating to postal business. (  Both maps are entitled “Disturnell’s new map of the United States and Canada showing all the canals, rail roads, telegraph lines and principal stage routes.” The first is  from 1850 ( The second, from 1851 (  First, I georecitified (, using a reference map of the United States from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), I matched up the different cities on the Burr map to the geocoded cities found through the basic geocoder in ArcMap, which was placed over the NOAA map. After there were at least two different control points per state,  I used the spline projection and georectified the image. The control points I used were cities found on both maps. For example, Charleston, South Carolina would be matched on the Burr map to its present location. Then, using this newly georectified map, a new shape layer, a polyline, was created and was named “post roads.” Using the key on the georectified map, the stagecoach roads were found and the new attributes were added to the shapefile “Post Roads.” Over every stage coach road, a line was drawn to the closest specification possible. Once completed, there were some questions as to whether some roads were post roads because there were colors on top of the lines on the map not referenced in the key. I was told, when I called the Library of Congress,  Henry A. Burr did not finish painting the map, hence, the indiscriminate colors over some lines on the map. I then matched up this georectified map to another map by Henry A. Burr without color from one year later ( I used the same procedure as above to georectify this map and double checked my newly created post roads later. Once checked, the data was modified accordingly and made ready for public use on ArcGIS online.


To download the data in shapefile format:

To view on a larger map: (click on the map thumbnail)

Creative Commons License
Post Roads by Laura Newman Eckstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Government Dealings

Things have been pretty interesting around here. Last week I tried calling the Postal Service Historian. Turns out, there’s no number for that person, so I called the general USPS number. Needless to say, the many people I talked to on the phone told me that even if I went up through the totem poll, I’d never get to the historian. Also, they didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a Postal Service Historian. I also tried the call the National Archives with no luck, though they did tweet back at my complaint and told me to email or write them. I am still waiting for a response to my email. Today however, I called the Library of Congress’ maps division with a question regarding a postal map from 1850 I’m working with. The legend is one of the clearest I have seen. It clearly distinguishes the postal roads from the rail roads, canals, and telegraphs. However, when all three are present on the map at the same time I cannot tell when one stops or when only two are present. The other confusing thing is that the topographer outlined, as he did with the canals, some sections of railroad combined with another tr4ansportation route in brown. I can’t figure out why this is or the purpose. Neither could the woman I spoke to at the Library of Congress, but at least I was able to talk to a human. She also said she would talk to some other people and get back to me. Here’s to hoping.


Update: The Library of Congress did call me back. The reason some lines are brown is simplistic, the topographer didn’t finish coloring the map.

Disturnell’s new map of the United States and Canada by Henry A. Burr, Topographer to the Postal Service 1850, (Source: Library of Congress)

After the first few days

Credit: Northeastern University
My work station, right. Credit: Northeastern University

I keep meaning to write. My life has been great. Work has been so so interesting. I never imagined myself wanting to work 7-8hrs straight, but I do! I am so lucky.

Right now, I am sitting at my desk in the Digital Scholarship Commons at Northeastern University. The space recently opened and is wonderful to work in, lots of light, nice people, clean etc. My boss, Professor Ryan Cordell, is very nice and keeps me on my toes. I really appreciate his interest in viral texts and his willingness to explore ideas. I also talk to doctoral students frequently. The space I work in is reserved for doctoral students, faculty, and staff, so I am the lone undergrad :).

Professor Ryan Cordell, center (purple button-down shirt).  Credit: Northeastern University
Professor Ryan Cordell, center (purple button-down shirt).
Credit: Northeastern University

So what am I working on? I am doing GIS, working with maps. GIS is a system of mapping where you can map layer over layer and manipulate the layers to your satisfaction in order to see a pattern. So for example, if I was building a house and I wanted a piece of land with a certain terrain and soil type, I would take layers of soil type and terrain for city I wanted to live in, put them on top of one another figure out the spot(s), based on your criteria that are best for building your house.

In my work this summer, I am mapping different transportation networks and other features, such as post offices from the 1800’s. We have data for all these newspapers that were reprinted in other parts of the country. We want to find out how the transportation networks influenced the spread and reprinting of texts. Its very interesting. Right now, I am doing a LOT of georectification. I put 19th century maps of post roads and other transportation networks on top of a current map and match the 19th century map up to the modern map. I then create a totally new features, creating lines and shapes for the features on the 19th century map. By the end, I can take the 19th century map off the screen and am left with the 21st century map with 19th century features. Pretty cool!