The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Card Sortings

The Way It Used To Be

The intended use of the cards in the middle of the 19th century was straightforward: you would lay them out on a flat surface at random and rearrange them according to similarities and differences. Grouping and regrouping.

The Way It Is Now

We have recreated that experience here, as best we could. You are welcome to move through the material any way you like, but we do have a few words of advice, especially for making sense of the arrays of colored dots you will find lurking on many of these pages. 

We did very little "massaging" of the data. We used the vocabulary of the cards. We preserved the categories of information, even though we could have produced cleaner "dot vizzes" had we consolidated many of the barely-used tags.

We had our reasons. Most relate to our stubborn belief that we can learn as much from marginalia - from the odd bits of information on the edges of the page - as we can from the big, bold, decorated, buzzwords in the center.

You don't believe us?

Well. Take, for example, the fact that there is only one playing card that mentions the harvesting of mammoth bones as a key economic activity. We could have folded that outlier into some other economic category in order to streamline our lists.

But aren't you glad we didn't?  How else would you know about the mammoth bones?

And the walrus teeth?

And the production of chronometers?

And the watermelons? (Oh wait, no - those you will have to look for more carefully.)

You are welcome.

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