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7th Street History Studied

Published: December 5, 2016

Geography's Christine Jocoy and her graduate student are using such things as early 1900 census maps of East 7th Street area (above) as part of their research.
Geography’s Christine Jocoy and graduate students use such things as early 1900 census maps of East 7th Street area (above) as part of their research.

Geography’s Christine Jocoy recently received a $16,800 grant from the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association also known as the Navy Trust to fund graduate student research into her project “Mapping the Dynamism of Long Beach’s East 7th Street Neighborhood.”

The goal of the project, said the member of the university since 2004, is to create a publicly available archive of historical demographic and geographic data on the Long Beach neighborhood known as East 7th Street annexed to the city in 1909.

“The product of this project will be a Web-accessible dataset of individual and household-level U.S. Census data from 1920 and 1930 and an online digital atlas of thematic maps, containing both static and animated visualizations, of the population and housing characteristics of the East 7th Street neighborhood during this time,” she explained. “The student assistants tasks include researching the latest trends in infographics and visualization of historic data, cleaning and organizing the 1920 and 1930 datasets, maintaining a GIS data set, preparing thematic maps of the data and creating a consistent design for the maps.

Jocoy hopes her research will shed new light on the history of the neighborhood’s economic and demographic development in the early 20th century.

“I hope our students working in the Masters of Science degree in Geographic Information Science will assist with data analysis, cartographic design and GIS work so that they can gain applied research experience,” she said.

Jocoy first joined the project in 2011 through a consultancy with the Rose Park Neighborhood Association. “They wanted to create a website that provided any available historical information about the three neighborhoods that make up the 7th Street area—Rose Park, North Alamitos Beach and the Craftsmen Village Association.

“The big goal here, from the Navy Trust perspective, is historical preservation but in a slightly different way than we usually think about it,” she said. “Usually it is a matter of physical structures of historical significance. But what they wanted to do was to branch out into providing data and other kinds of archival material. They wanted to put the data together in an accessible format.”

Jocoy applied and received a Navy Trust grant to put together an atlas that would display data in a format that would be available to the public.

“For instance, I wanted actual PDF copies of the census work sheets where enumerators wrote down their house-by-house information,” she said. “Then I wanted to organize the data digitally and summarized it with statistics. I looked at the data to find patterns.”

This project fits into her overall scholarship. A lot of her interest is in urban planning. Community and civic engagement are important. She is happy to partner with a community group as well as getting students involved. The neighborhood association is interested in knowing its own history. That way, they are informed when negotiating with the city about changes that might happen to their neighborhoods. They want continuity with their neighborhood’s history over time.

The goal of Jocoy’s data analysis was to answer questions about what the neighborhood was like in times past based on census data from that period.

“What was the population density?” she asked. “What were the residents’ places of birth? There also was occupational data so we could learn about what people did for a living back then. We looked for patterns that could link what people did for a living and whether they owned their homes or not. I was looking for a different way to present data than just the raw numbers.”

Jocoy earned her B.A. from New York’s Vassar College and her M.S. and Ph.D. (in 2004) from Pennsylvania State University, University Park, where she served as an instructor. She lived for years in Washington, DC, where she worked as a cartographer for the National Geographic Society.

She hopes her Masters of Geographic Information Science students take from their participation an idea for the basis of a community-based project that fulfills their degree requirements.

“They get the experience of working as consultants providing technical expertise for someone with a problem for them to address,” she said. “I hope it will be of use for students actually interested in the area’s history. It is a matter of taking highly detailed census data and putting it in an accessible story.”

What Jocoy hopes to achieve at the conclusion of the grant is a way to organize data in such a way that it makes sense to the public with her target audience being the neighborhood residents.

“It will be open to anyone interested in local historical research,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to make sure this history is preserved.”