Visualizing Colonial Police Deaths & Casualties in 19th-Century Burma

In a 7 May 1900 issue of The Rangoon Gazette (pg. 10) I came across a “List of Civil Police Officers killed, wounded or died from 1886-1898.” The information that is provided consists of the following: battalion, name, date of death or casualty, nature of death or casualty.

excel image

I input that information into an Excel spreadsheet, and then looked up the latitude and longitude for the places where the battalions were based. For places like “Lower Chindwin” I used Monywa, as that was the administrative center at the time. In the case of Shwegyin, I used this one, but there is more than one Shwegyin, so I’m not sure if this is correct.

After inputting that information, and cleaning up some mistakes in the text from The Rangoon Gazette, I tried to map out and visualize this information.

There are various programs that you can use to visualize data. All you have to do is to save the Excel file as a csv (comma separated value) file and then you just drag and drop the file into a visualization program.

Google map

I created the above map by doing this with Google Maps Engine. One problem that I encountered is that when you have more than one entry for one geographic place, the map just shows one entry and then ignores the rest.

If you click on the “data” icon, you can see that information, but it doesn’t all get represented on the map.

Gephi 1

I then used Gephi to make these visualizations.

Gephi 2

I just used the information about battalion names and years, because the visualization I got when I input all the information was too confusing. I also had to combine place names like “Lower Chindwin” as “LowerChindwin” as Gephi used the words “Lower” and “Chindwin” as separate pieces of data.

In the end, this visualization looks cool, but I don’t find it to be all that helpful.


So I then used RAW and got the above visualization for battalions and years of deaths or casualties. This one is a little bit clearer, but still kind of difficult to see.


Ultimately I found that the clearest things to visualize were single items, like years when people were killed or wounded.


The battalions they belonged to.


And what happened to them. Here “died” means that the person simply died while in the service of the police, and not in some kind of active police mission.

Trying to visualize data is fun, but it is definitely a challenge to create visualizations that actually show someone something significant. I would say that the above visualizations all pretty much “fail” to do that, but you do learn things in trying to make visualizations.

If anyone wants to play around with this data, I’m attaching the Excel file here.


Postscript: I just made the above map in OpenHeatMap. I think that one was more successful.

Colonial Police Deaths & Casualties in Burma



Exploring Southeast Asia with Omeka and Neatline

I just spent a very long day trying to learn how to install and use Omeka and Neatline.

For those who don’t know, Omeka is (to quote Wikipedia because I’m too tired to think right now. . .) “a free, open source content management system for online digital collections” while Neatline is (quoting the Neatline web page) “a geotemporal exhibit-builder that allows you to create beautiful, complex maps and narrative sequences from collections of archives and artifacts.”


Omeka and Neatline are free, but you need access to a server in order to install and use them, and that is not free, but there are inexpensive options that one can chose.

Omeka can be used to create a “digital collection” of whatever digitized materials you want to collect, and you can then create displays of those materials.

Neatline, meanwhile, enables one to connect texts or images with online maps


Today I tried to create Omeka and Neatline exhibits using a report that James McCarthy, Superintendent of Surveys in Siam, presented to members of the Royal Geographic Society on 14 November 1887. This report was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographic Society and Monthly Record of Geography, New Monthly Series, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Mar., 1888): 117-134.

I used a passage from this report about a trip that McCarthy made to the northwest of Siam, into the area of what is today Laos.

omeka hosting

The documentation that Omeka and Neatline provide is not as detailed as one would like. There are some companies that provide server space and offer “one-click installation” of Omeka, and they are listed on the Omeka web page. That’s probably the easiest way to start.

Once Omeka is installed, the Neatline plugin has to be uploaded to the server and activated. The documentation for that is fine, and I used Web Disk to do that.


Finally, when it comes to building an exhibit, again, the documentation is not as clear as one would like. In the end I found that trial and error worked.

This is the result of my labors: an Omeka exhibit of McCarthy’s expedition to Laos, and the beginnings of a Neatline exhibit of the same expedition (click on the circles on the map).

I can definitely see a lot of potential in using these platforms to present information in interesting and helpful ways, but the learning curve at the beginning is a little steep. It’s not impossible, but it does take time.

Stitching Together Historical Maps of Southeast Asia

There are a lot of historical maps of different areas of Southeast Asia that have been digitized. One problem that I have encountered, however, is that in many cases maps are too big to scan in one image, so people have to scan such maps in parts.

The result is that you have multiple images that you have to look at (and the place I always seem to need to see is right where one scan ends and another begins!).


Today I just succeeded in “stitching” some digitized images of maps together.

Recently I came across an article from the late nineteenth century that had a nice detailed color map of Siam in it. The map, however, had been scanned into 8 images.

Using the professional version of Adobe (which I don’t own, but have access to), I first cut off a white portion at the bottom of each image. I then saved each image as a TIFF file.


I then downloaded the (free) Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE). It is incredibly easy to use. I first dragged and dropped the TIFF images from the top of the map, and the ICE aligned them perfectly.

I then saved this as a TIFF file, and repeated the process for the 4 images from the bottom of the map.


I then dragged and dropped these two files into ICE and it likewise aligned them very well. This image I then saved again as a TIFF file (but it can save in other formats too), and the quality of the final map was very good, much better than the image that I have here.

Using RAW to Create Visualizations for Southeast Asian History

There is a new tool that has just been released called RAW which allows users to easily create visualizations from information in a spreadsheet.

I decided to visualize some information from a US State Department report from October 1945 about nationalists in Vietnam. To do this, I created a simple Excel spreadsheet with the names of people and their political affiliations.


I pasted it into RAW.


Then I chose a layout and how I wanted to map it.


And I got my visualization.