Digital History Project- Early Twentieth Century Virginia Consumption Death Rates and Public Health

For my digital history project, I wanted to create a heat map of tuberculosis death rates in Virginia in the early twentieth century. I want to layer public health initiatives on the heat map. Ideally, the heat map would display change over time, possibly correlating specific public health initiatives (state sanatorium erections and tuberculosis lectures) to a change in death rates. I am also considering layering the disparity between white and black death rates with income from the census. This project would explore the effect of public health campaigns on consumption death rates.

This is my rough, static heat map for 1912-1913 tb death rates by Virginia county with the first state sanatorium erected in 1908:


Sources: Annual Health Commissioner Reports- Mortality Statistics by County and Cause of Death

              Virginia Health Bulletin

              Hopefully census data and Virginia newspaper tb lecture announcements

              Various secondary sources

Process/ Methodology:

First, I entered the total deaths and tb deaths by county into a spread sheet. I then created a simple percentage equation that calculated the percentage of tb deaths over total deaths for every county. In order to map the counties, I configured their respective latitude and longitude coordinates and entered that information on the spread sheet, as well.

For the mapping, I used the program ArcGIS. I imported my spread sheet data as an csv file. The program automatically generated the points with a range of death rate percentages. In order to simulate a heat map, I colored the percentage ranges from lowest- light yellow to highest- red. I increased the size of the points in order to cover the entire county on the ArcGIS map. Then I imported a simple spreadsheet with the Catawba Sanatorium latitude and longitude coordinates in order to start layering the public health initiatives.

In order to create a temporal heat map, one of my colleagues in the Center for History and New Media referred me to an online presentation of ArcGIS. Once I create the separate time maps for consumption death rates and layer each public health initiative, the presentation Explorer mode in ArcGIS will allow me to order the maps and play them successively. This play mode will show change over time, which is a feature, perhaps integral to the argument, that I could not have achieved without using digital media.

Argument: I do not have an argument yet.

I created a separate blog site for my project that I will show in class tonight. It contains more detail, screen shots of my primary sources, and research questions.


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