These online maps help preserve the architecture of Los Angeles, and share the immigrant experience of New York.
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In addition to the Sort option, surfers can also activate a Filter function (built on Sorts's categories) to highlight corresponding map locations, or simply use a Keyword Search to locate a particular building. Finally, after touring the interactive Wilshire, Printable Tours can be generated - either of the entire 96-building collection, or of subsets as determined by the Filter feature. There's also a Timeline that traces area developments back to 30,000 BC - though it appears that things didn't start really speeding up until the last few hundred years.Skip to next paragraph
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With all its features, Explore the Blvd. remains impressively intuitive, and the absence of a "Help" link is completely justified. Meanwhile, the amount of information behind this straightforward interface is substantial, and given the possibility of the Conservancy adding buildings while visitors add memories, it can only grow.
On the other side of the country, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum's Folk Songs for the Five Points is less about information and more about experience - specifically, inviting surfers to experience a cultural richness born of diversity, and perhaps learn a bit about the lives of new immigrants, of "belonging," and of the evolution of new cultural identities.
The museum's choice of a "SoundMap" fits the undertaking nicely. Using events rather than architecture to anchor its points of interest, the museum takes a map of the Lower East Side and overlays a series of colored dots indicating sound samples recorded at that location. Files are divided into Music (including a Puerto Rican "Bomba" performance and a Cantonese Opera Rehearsal), Spoken Word (a Seafood Salesman and 50-year Resident of the neighborhood), Field Recordings (a pick-up Basketball game and a local Delicatessen), and excerpts from original Folk Songs as performed by Angolan/Portuguese artist Victor Gama. Not entirely devoid of hard facts, Five Points also provides still images and some text background behind each location with a click of the mouse.
As the SoundMap loads, it automatically chooses and begins playing a mix of five of the available audio files - their geographic points of origin indicated by gray circles around the relevant dots. The opening mix has an odd combination of the cacophony of chaos and just a hint of structure, but it won't last for long as the point of the exercise is for visitors to drag the gray circles to new locations and create their own combinations of music and sound. As well as choosing each audio clip, visitors can also manipulate the volume of each track and left/right stereo separation, or turn a track off completely. (So you can choose to listen to only one or two sound sources.) The site also offers the option of saving your mix.
While this site does include a Help page, the exhibit is fairly intuitive and you could probably find your way by yourself. The only potential snag (and one not covered on the Help page) comes when trying to move the circles from one location to another. If you click on the center of a circle (where the circle overlays a sound file's dot) you won't be able to drag it anywhere - be sure to click around the outside of the circle and everything will work as advertised.
Maps have come a long way from the service station impulse rack, and, as these two examples demonstrate, the ability to customize a map for a specific purpose can be as important as the interactive information it offers. Both of these sites could easily be adapted for other locations around the world, but if you spend much time on the Web, you already know that these are only two of dozens, if not hundreds, of variations on the map theme already available. And the evolution shows no signs of stopping.