Smith College Spatial Analysis Lab

Semester Recap: Fall 2020

By Hannah Dillahunt ’21

My first semester as the SAL assistant coincided with Smith’s first fully online semester. Despite not being on campus this fall, Jon, Tracy and I were able to work on many different projects and help a lot of students expand their GIS skills. I spent most of my semester in the virtual SAL working with StoryMap, helping the Smith College Art Museum (SCMA) create a guide that highlight’s art on campus that exists outside of the museum.

Working with Emma Chubb, Lexie Casais and Gina Hall, I used StoryMap to identify and provide context for some of the SCMA’s lesser acknowledged pieces, sculptures, drawings, murals and trees around campus that most students pass by everyday. The StoryMap, Art on Campus, takes visitors on a tour of mostly outdoor exhibits focused around three areas of campus: the SCMA, Lyman Plant House, and the edges of Smith’s campus. The map was created with the intention of guiding visitors to campus, school groups, prospective students or SCMA regulars, in viewing and learning about Smith College’s vast art collection even when the Smith College Art Museum is closed (as it is currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Using latitudes and longitudes found on GoogleEarth (and with some help from Lexie on the ground) for each of the art pieces such as the Lanning Fountain outside of Burton Hall or the Great Blue Heron next to the Lyman Plant House, I created interactive maps of campus that spatially identified each piece. The maps also include labels for campus landmarks such as the Campus Center and the President’s House. I used the MapTour function on StoryMap which creates a slide for each art piece that is linked to a marker on the map. By clicking on a piece’s marker, the map zooms in to its location and the slide containing the piece’s description appears. After receiving photographs and descriptions of the pieces from the SCMA, I was able to put the final product together.

I really enjoyed working on this project and working collaboratively with the SCMA. This was my first big project on StoryMap, and it was a great way to learn about all its different functions and abilities. The rest of my time in the virtual SAL, my family’s home in Eden Prairie, MN, was spent working with students in classes such as ENV 201/202 and EGR’s Design Clinic during my office hours. Also, during the first half of the semester, I helped facilitate the SAL’s Election Mapping workshops where we discussed how data and results from elections were used to create maps, if these types of maps were effective, and more politically based topics such as gerrymandering.

Despite not being in person, I thought this semester was productive for the SAL and the student’s who came to “visit”. Even though most of us weren’t planning on spending so much time online this semester, I think these skills in online communication have prepared us well for future challenges and provided us with a new set of skills. For me, my zoom skills have definitely improved and I learned more about the functions of ArcGIS online. In other news, I am planning on returning to campus this February and am looking forward to my last semester “in person” at Smith!

Thanks for a great semester,

Hannah (and Ruby)