Part of the fifth chapter of Dougherty’s and Nawrotzki’s book, Writing History in the Digital Age, includes an essay by Stephen Robertson, in which he describes the development of the Putting Harlem on the Map project.
During the project, Robertson and his colleagues began to use digital tools that were previously unknown to them; while experimenting with them, they found new ways to store and display their data, which led them to a better understanding of the complexity of the data involved. They found that with the help of digital tools such as Google Maps, a linked database and a WordPress Blog, they could create a Digital Harlem, a result which was much more multi-faceted and layered than they had anticipated. It enabled them to realize connections between events and locations, which they would have missed otherwise. However, Robertson also recognized that just releasing their results on the internet did not guarantee that people would find it; he tried to create links that were available to a broader audience, for example by linking the project to the Harlem entry in Wikipedia – which entailed a number of other problems.
He also acknowledged that Digital Harlem provides only an incomplete picture; a digital map can only be as good as the underlying data. Since they were restricted by the type and number of records available, they were unable to add a more personal view to the project. Still, the result is far better than anything they could have created for a printed publication alone.