This post is part of our Curators’ Corner series. Every so often we’ll feature a different DCN Curator. The series grew out of a community-building activity wherein curators at our partner organizations interview each other “chain-letter style” in order to get to know each other and their work outside of the DCN better. We hope you enjoy these posts!
Reina Chano Murray is the Geospatial Data Curator & Applications Administrator at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). Reina was interviewed by Wanda Marsolek in June 2022.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to your current position?
I’m new to academic institutions and libraries. My background is in history, cultural heritage management, urban planning and GIS. Prior to this position, I was the GIS Project Manager for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, applying GIS to advocate for and save historic sites. I worked there for a little over three years. As part of my role, I dabbled in developing standards for cultural heritage geospatial data and also designed GIS workshops for historic preservationists.
My position here at JHU has dual roles: a systems administrator role responsible for managing geospatial licenses and systems for the university and a more service-oriented role focused on consulting with JHU patrons on their geospatial projects, as well as curating geospatial data for the university’s institutional repository. It just seemed like a really neat opportunity to combine multiple interests, so that’s how I ended up here. I’ve been in this position now for four and a half years. This is my first position in an academic setting.
You’ve given us a little bit of background on how you’ve come to this role, can you share what you do?
As I stated earlier, my role has two distinct areas. I’ll start with the systems admin side: I manage our geospatial licenses. The big one is our educational site license agreement with Esri, the leading commercial GIS software provider. I negotiate on the university’s behalf and renew our licenses each year, and I am the main administrator for the full Esri software suite. So I make sure that across the university, everyone has the licenses they need for both desktop and web-based software and applications. I also monitor and maintain our ArcGIS Online organization.
Basically, if the library has a project that has some sort of a geospatial component, I’m usually involved. One of the fun things we’re working on, that will hopefully be ready to launch at some point, is a GeoBlacklight instance for JHU. GeoBlacklight is an open-source geospatial platform designed to improve finding and accessing geospatial data and historical maps. So that’s one side of my job — I get to do a lot of GIS technical work.
The other side of my job is more public-facing. I get to consult and work with faculty, students and staff on their geospatial projects. Just this morning I had a consultation with a postdoc over in the School of Public Health. She’s working on a research project, and she hit a snag using some geoprocessing tools. We talked about it and went over the difference between geographic coordinate systems and projected coordinate systems. I also teach some GIS and Python workshops for my team. And finally, I am also responsible for curating our geospatial data. With that part I get to work with my data management consultant colleagues (who are also involved in the DCN). My unit manages the JHU Data Archive. Whenever there’s an archiving request that involves geospatial data or a geospatial web application, I’ll curate that part.
And that is why I have such a long title, because they were trying to capture both parts of this position. 🙂
How much of your job involves data curation?
When I originally started in this position, it was supposed to be about 25% of my job. But the JHU COVID-19 Dashboard is built and hosted on a platform I manage (ArcGIS Online). I’m still involved in that project, so the GIS administrative side of my job takes up most of my time. Data curation is more like 10% of my job at the moment. So I really enjoy it whenever I get a curation request from the DCN (hint hint)!
Okay so we just talked about how much of your job involves curation. Why is data curation important to you?
At the end of the day, we generate so much data in this world, and I think it’s important to be able to reuse it. I don’t like waste in any way. Data can have so much benefit for society, beyond one research project, and it’s important to share that data in a way that others can use and learn from and hopefully build off of in the future. Following principles like FAIR and CARE to make sure information is not kept in silos and is findable, reusable, accessible, and responsibly managed is one way we can contribute to equity and social justice.
If you weren’t doing data curation what would you be doing?
Pretty much the rest of my job. So a lot of GIS: GIS analysis, GIS management, and GIS administration. Thankfully, it is something I enjoy doing. If I have a free moment, I enjoy getting to geek out over some geoprocessing tool or working on a script to improve some aspect of managing our ArcGIS Online organization. Those things are really fun for me so from a job perspective, that’s what I’d be doing.
What is your favorite cuisine?
Ooh fun question! I don’t know if I have just one. I’m definitely a live-to-eat kind of person. I’m not an eat-to-live person. I don’t have a single favorite cuisine; I tend to have favorite dishes from various cuisines. We have an amazing Afghani restaurant here in Baltimore called Helmand. There’s this lamb and turnip dish that I absolutely adore, as well as this baby pumpkin, yogurt, and garlic dish. It’s phenomenal! I’m craving that right now. There’s also an amazing Filipino restaurant (Heritage Kitchen) that opened recently, and while I’ll pretty much devour anything they make, I especially love their shrimp laing. Koco’s Pub makes the best crab cakes.
And then I love my Japanese comfort foods. Those remind me of home. I love traditional Japanese dishes, like Eggplant Agebitashi. It’s fried eggplant simmered in broth that you eat with grated daikon. And then there’s a simple simmered hijiki and carrot dish that I make often. My family likes to tease me for having old fashioned tastes.
What is your favorite city?
My favorite city is Sapporo, and it’s in my favorite place, Hokkaidō, the northernmost island of Japan. My grandparents lived there, I was born there and spent a lot of my holidays there. It’s where most of my fondest childhood memories take place. Sapporo feels a bit like Boulder; you’re surrounded by beautiful mountains, and there’s a great outdoor activity and hiking culture there. The city has lovely parks, including one that stretches through downtown. There’s a lot of skiing and ice skating to do in the winter and hikes in the summer. The local cuisine (especially the seafood and jingisukan) is amazing.
When the Japanese government colonized Hokkaidō, it hired American agricultural specialists to come to Hokkaidō and advise on western agricultural methods. Hokkaidō’s modern agricultural systems and structure are based on American ones. I believe a lot of the advisors came from Massachusetts, so some of our surviving historic buildings from the Meiji Restoration period are heavily influenced by New England architectural styles (like our old city hall, the Hoheikan, and the Sapporo Clock Tower). These buildings can be found in the city next to traditional and modern Japanese architecture.
It’s also important to know that Hokkaidō is one of the traditional lands of the Ainu, indigenous peoples from the northern region of Japan and parts of Russia. The Ainu were forcibly assimilated into modern Japan. Through their advocacy and activism, the Ainu won legal recognition as an indigenous people from the government of Japan in 2019. Quite frankly there’s a lot of problems in Japan concerning discrimination against the Ainu (here’s a good summary to start with if you’re interested), but from my albeit limited experience and view, there does seem to be some progress. Upopoy, the national center for the revival of Ainu culture, opened in 2020, and I plan to visit the next time I’m back.
I’m rambling, but basically: for me, Sapporo feels very Japanese and also not Japanese at the same time. Which is kind of how I view myself. Like a lot of places, it’s a messy, mixed jumble of parts, and it’s home.
Where would you most like to travel to next?
I’m not sure. One of the things with the pandemic is I’m so out of practice with traveling, and I have some anxiety about starting to travel again. My husband is from upstate New York, so we’ve spent time exploring up there, particularly the Adirondacks. I’d love to explore that area more.
Otherwise, after not seeing friends and family for so long, I think the location matters less to me than just getting a chance to see them. Right now, I’m making plans with my best friend for a weeklong getaway “somewhere/anywhere” with our families, and I can’t wait!
To learn more about Reina, and the datasets she has curated for the DCN, see her curator page!