Visualizing Philadelphia is the umbrella name for a series of projects initiated in the VizE Lab and intended to explore the possibilities of data visualization in anthropology. Visualizing Philadelphia is based in Krogman Growth Study archive, started by Wilton Krogman. Krogman (1903-1987) was an American anthropologist who pioneered the fields of physical and forensic anthropology during his tenure at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1948, he founded the Philadelphia Center for Research in Child Growth for the purpose of developing standards of growth for normal healthy children of elementary and high school age. The Center became the site of the most comprehensive collection of growth data from children in the greater Philadelphia metropolitan region, and the largest longitudinal study ever conducted on human growth in the US.
The vast Krogman Growth Study data collection is now physically located at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia and in an offsite warehouse holding over 70 file cabinets of medical records from visits over several decades. These records provide a detailed history of the growth and development of about 7,500 individual Philadelphia area school children from birth to adulthood (many of these individuals have been recruited into the 8th iteration of the study). This abundant cache of "big data" includes dental and hand-wrist x-rays as well as medical histories and a range of behavioral notes about the children and their families, including employment and residential information. By digitizing and analyzing these rich resources, researchers at Princeton will be able to investigate a wide set of questions that connect a variety of biological environmental and social data sets.
In the initial research project "Environmental Exposures and Child Development," we seek to trace and visualize the complex relationships among the social and biological variables in the "local biologies" of several Philadelphia neighborhoods. We are contextualizing the physiological data from the Krogman study with a variety of openly public data sets that contain information on the social, economic and environmental history of Philadelphia. By comparing Krogman physiological data from areas where there are sources of contaminants (e.g. dry cleaner complexes, smelting operations, slaughterhouses) with data on children living outside those areas, we seek to identify the particular environmental, and possibly epigenetic, factors on the growth, development and health of children living across the city's neighborhoods.
Data visualizations are helping us to describe and analyze the data that is contained in the enormous Krogman Growth Study collection, which consists of approximately 400 cubic feet of medical charts and notes. To generate data from this physical collection of "big data" that we can visualize, we digitize and tabulate by hand selected fields of data from a sample of the larger collection. We are also collecting a wide range of data on demography, political economy, and the physical environment to help make sense of the Krogman data. The two series of interactive visualizations of growth and development data presented below are each situated alongside environmental and photographic data that add context to the data.