Milwaukee Fallout Shelters
About this Project
This project is intended to showcase the creation of a custom map in Tableau using an archival map. Please review the project Methodology below to learn how the map was created.
The Community Fallout Shelter Program began in September of 1961. The purpose of the community shelter program was to locate, mark and stock as many fallout shelter spaces as possible.
The February 15, 1972 editions of the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel newspapers included a special advertising section entitled "Milwaukee County government family survival plan" (PDF). The 28 page family survival plan was developed by the Milwaukee County Emergency Government Council for the purpose of telling families where to go and what to do in order to obtain the best available protection from radioactive fallout which could blanket the country in case of a nuclear attack.
In addition to information on how to interpret attack signal warning tones, what to do if you can't reach a fallout shelter and how to administer emergency care to sick and wounded individuals, there are 19 pages containing maps and an index of shelters in Milwaukee County.
The map below contains the location of the 1,249 shelters listed in the index. Shelters can be searched by name and sorted by type, i.e. commercial, education, government, etc.
- Each shelter location on the map includes the name of the shelter, the shelter address, shelter type, page location and the page grid location.
- Note that due to the high density of shelters in some locations, such as downtown Milwaukee, sections of the map are blacked out. Given that exact locations could not be plotted, shelters in these areas are placed in rows and may not represent the exact location of the named shelter.
- Locate the data - Thanks to staff at the City of Milwaukee's Municipal Research Library who compiled a list of all items in their collection under the subject heading of "Civil Defense." One of these items was the family survival plan. This lead to a search of the Marquette Raynor Memorial Libraries NewsBank database for the February 15, 1972 edition of the Milwaukee Journal. A PDF version of that edition, which included the special advertising section was downloaded.
- Begin data janitoring - The four page index shelter addresses in the the family survival plan had optical character recognition (OCR) applied using Adobe Acrobat. However, even though text was now readable, given the column layout of the pages, it was difficult to copy and paste the text from the index columns into a text editor. The decision was made to manually enter the addresses from the index into an Excel spreadsheet.
- Splicing the Map Together - In the family survival plan, the map is spread out over 15 pages. To get the map into Tableau, the map pages were saved as PNG files from the original PDF and spliced together into one large map using Adobe Photoshop. The intent was to allow visitors to have the ability to zoom in to the map without it getting pixelated, so the decision was made to save the map at a high resolution (300 dpi). This increases the file size of the image, but maintains the resolution even on a close zoom in.
Create a Custom Map in Tableau - Thanks to Ryan Sleeper's tutorial on How to Make a Custom Map in Tableau, it was possible to plot the location of each shelter on the spliced together map.
For more information about Milwaukee fallout shelters and Cold War era civil defense planning, the Municipal Research Library and Milwaukee Public Library archives contain a plethora of primary sources.
The 1962 Fallout shelter survey of Milwaukee, Wisconsin includes a detailed explanation on creating and locating suitable structures to serve as fallout shelters and a detailed map of downton Milwaukee fallout shelters.