The Shape of History

What is the story we tell about the origins of modern data visualization? What alternate histories might emerge, what new forms might we imagine, and what new arguments might we make, if we told that story differently

The Shape of History presents one such story, drawing from the understudied visualization work of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody. The project combines original archival research with interactive visualizations in order to demonstrate how the tools and techniques of data visualization carry very specific assumptions about how knowledge is produced and perceived.

In Spring 2017, the project team launched shapeofhistory.net, an interactive website that guides viewers through Peabody’s images and ideas.

The team is also working to recreate Peabody’s lost “floor charts” using physical computing materials. The floor charts were rug-sized versions of Peabody’s images that she designed for classroom use.

Follow the progress of this project on our research blog.

Publications related to this project include:

Project Contributors: Lauren Klein, Caroline Foster, Adam Hayward, Angela Vujic, Slava Kucheryavykh, Maninder Japra, Shivani Negi, and Erica Pramer.