One of the best things about working with any archival collection is that you never know how a researcher will interpret the materials that he or she finds.

Brett Lucas, an Economic Geographer and Spokane area city planner, has been working on a project for a couple of years asking for the opening and closing dates of JCPenney stores, first in California, and then across the nation.  It was an odd request for me, but I sent our Word documents that had been compiled from handwritten lists in the late 1980s to Brett.  I told him that our store opening and closing lists were accurate from 1902 to the late 1980s, but after that, the information was, at best, limited.  He said something about “mapping.”  I promptly forgot and went to my next project.

GIS, Map, Mapping Software, Geographic Information System, GIS, Geographic Information Software

Brett sent me this map, and the scales fell from my eyes.  Here anyone can see how JCPenney moved from the rural areas to the urban areas.  Looking at lists, just doesn’t give it the same impact.  Now, my mind is churning.  We have two sets of basic data sheets—one from the early 1960s and one from 1971 that will give Brett historical sales and store foot information.  If I had a student scan all of those, I wonder what he can do with that information?

The website is here, if you want to use the map interactively, go to this spot