Audit the Streets

Data Visualization, Public Data

How can data and maps help communities work towards memory justice in the built environment?

Audit the Streets is an early-stage project about auditing the U.S. heritage landscape–its collection of commemorative street names, places and monuments.

The murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, MN, led to sustained protests, rallies, and public outcry against systemic racism. People turned out in public spaces, and they also took action to contest and transform those public spaces both literally and symbolically: Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington D.C. renamed a two-block street section in front of the White House to “Black Lives Matter Plaza.” A statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston was beheaded and another in Baltimore was hurled into a river.

Purple map of Audit the Streets data points across the US
Map showing where Christopher Columbus is commemorated in the U.S. landscape, using heritage location data from the Audit the Streets project. It was featured in the zine, “We Never Wanted Him Here.”

What these recent flash points have in common is that they are using the heritage landscape of the city as a site of contestation.

Through our own mixed-methods research as well as a public data portal that we have built, we introduce the idea of auditing the heritage landscape–creating databases, lists, and visualizations (see previous page) which highlight and quantify unequal public memory as well as the persistent elevation of perpetrators of violence in the landscape.

This Audit the Streets webpage shows a list of verified streets and places around the U.S. that are named after Christopher Columbus. On the right, we mapped the list to show our collective spatial memory of Christopher Columbus.

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Principal Investigator

Catherine D’Ignazio

Student Researchers

Wonyoung So, Nicole Ntim-Addae, Elizabeth Borneman, Cynthia Hua, Lily Xie

UROP Experiential Learning Program Participants

Amelia Dogan, Avital Vainberg, Sophia Zeng, Jennifer Ai, Joli Dou, Jillian Peprah-Frimpong


  • D’Ignazio, Catherine, Wonyoung So, and Nicole Ntim-Addae. “The Audit: Perils and Possibilities for Contesting Oppression in the Heritage Landscape.” In The Routledge Handbook of Architecture, Urban Space and Politics, edited by Farzaneh Haghighi and Nikolina Bobic, Vol. I: Violence, Spectacle and Data. Routledge, 2022.
  • Ntim-Addae, Nicole; So, Wonyoung; D’Ignazio, Catherine, 2021, “Auditing Cambridge Streets for Equity: Data Set,” Harvard Dataverse, V2.
  • “Where will the Streets Take You? Data Narratives using the Audit the Streets Database.” Nicole Ntim- Addae, Medium, January 18, 2021.


United States


MIT Programs in Digital Humanities, MIT Office of Experiential Learning