Posts Tagged ‘GIS’

Metropolitan History
7 December 2011
Applying new spatial techniques in the study of late medieval London
Justin Colson (CMH/IHR)

Mapping London's PastAs part of the postmodern turn in the study of history, the focus on space (alongside the usual questions of who, when, why) has become a mainstream topic of study.  Justin Coulson summarises some of the latest studies to involve spatial data and in particular looks at how the digital is helping to transform what can be achieved and discovered through such studies.  Coulson notes current projects such as Locating London’s Past and Mapping London – both of which use geo-referencing to create accurate maps of pre-modern London.  Then there are postgraduate and postdoctoral studies such as Tim Bishop’s use of the Antwerp Alderman register to enable him to create an accurate map of the property boundaries in the fifteenth century city.  At the University of York, Gareth Dean is using tenement records to spatially understand nearby Swinegate, whilst Nick Holder is locating London friaries and their development through time.  Carley Dearing (Liverpool) is creating 3D maps of medieval Winchester and Marlas Craine is employing ‘space syntax’ to understand public spaces in the nineteenth century.

Coulson’s own research is focused on neighbourhood in medieval London.  Early modernists claim that the rise of the self (amongst other things) led to the decline in neighbourly activity that had previously existed.  However, this previous existence of a neighbourhood community is generally taken for granted and has yet to take on any properly understood shape.  Coulson therefore has sought to use spatial technologies to find out to what degree there actually existed a neighbourhood in late medieval London.  To achieve this Coulson needed to find out who lived where and map this onto an accurate medieval layout of the city.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Digital History seminar
Using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to Explore Historical Texts:  Examples from the Lake District and Census Reports
Ian Gregory (Lancaster)
20 November 2012, 5.15pm GMT
Room G37, Senate House or online on History SPOT

On Tuesday the Digital History seminar will be streaming live on the internet again.  Here is the abstract:


Traditionally there has been a simple split in scholarship between social science approaches based on quantitative sources on the one hand, and humanities based approaches based on textual sources on the other. If you were interested in the former then IT had much to offer to help with your analysis, if however, you were interested the latter then IT offered little and you would instead stress the close reading of your texts. This cosy dichotomy is falling under threat because increasingly large volumes of texts are available in digital form and close reading is no longer a suitable approach for understanding all of the huge volumes of material that are now available. Unfortunately we know little about how to analyse texts in an IT environment in ways that are able to cope with both the large volumes of material – potentially stretching to billions of words – together with the traditional need within the humanities to stress detail and nuance. This paper presents some initial results from a European Research Council funded project Spatial Humanities: Texts, GIS, Places that explores how Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology can be exploited to help us to understand the geographies within texts. It is based on two examples: one drawing on early literature from the Lake District, the other from a much larger collection of census and vital registration material drawn from the Histpop collection (www.histpop.org).

To listen to this live stream on Tuesday click here.

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Lancaster University
Friday 30th November, 2012
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are becoming increasingly used by historians, archaeologists, literary scholars, classicists and others with an interest in humanities geographies. Take-up has been hampered by a lack of understanding of what GIS is and what it has to offer to these disciplines. This free workshop, sponsored by the European Research Council’s Spatial Humanities: Texts, GIS, Placesproject and hosted by Lancaster University, will provide a basic introduction to GIS both as an approach to academic study and as a technology. Its key aims are: To establish why the use of GIS is important to the humanities; to stress the key abilities offered by GIS, particularly the capacity to integrate, analyse and visualise a wide range of data from many different types of sources; to show the pitfalls associated with GIS and thus encourage a more informed and subtle understanding of the technology; and, to provide a basic overview of GIS software and data.

9:30   Registration
10:00 Welcome and Introductions
10:15 Session 1: Fundamentals of GIS from a humanities perspective.
11:45 Session 2: Case studies of the use of GIS in the humanities.
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Session 3: Getting to grips with GIS software and data.
15:30 Roundtable discussion – going further with GIS.
16:30 Close

Who should come?
The workshop is aimed at a broad audience including post-graduate or masters students,members of academic staffcurriculum and research managers, and holders of major grants and those intending to apply for major grants.  Professionals in other relevant sectors interested in finding out about GIS applications are also welcome.  This workshop is only intended as an introduction to GIS, so will suit novices or those who want to brush up previous experience. It does not include any hands-on use of software – this will be covered in later events to be held 11-12th April and 15-18th July 2013.

How much will it cost?
The workshop is free of charge.  Lunch and refreshments are included. We do not provide accommodation but can recommend convenient hotels and B&Bs if required.

How do I apply?
Places are limited and priority will be given to those who apply early. As part of registering please include a brief description of your research interests and what you think you will gain from the workshop. This should not exceed 200 words.
For more details of this and subsequent events see:http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/spatialhum/training.html. To register please email a booking form (attached or available from the website) to: I.Gregory@lancaster.ac.uk who may also be contacted with informal enquiries.

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Digital History
Digital landscapes and Archaeology
Peter Rauxloh (Museum of London Archaeology)
6 December 2011

Internationally known as a leading expert on using databases in archaeology, the Museum of London’s Peter Rauxloh is the perfect person to talk about using digital technologies to understand the landscape.  Peter’s talk was live streamed by the IHR on 6 December and also recorded as a podcast. 

The talk centres on several case studies including Spitalfields Medieval Augustinian Cemetery in London.   The central question that he poses for this paper is what could not be done without digital technologies in archaeology?  Looking at tools ranging from Geo-referencing to three-dimensional modelling and more basic digital assets such as databases for recording large amounts of data (such as 11,000 skeletons at Spitalfields) it becomes immediately obvious just how important digital is to our understandings of archaeological remains and landscapes.  Take for instance the desire to know the orientation of all 11,000 skeletons and partial skeletons.  In the case of Spitalfield this information was not recorded for all finds but using GIS and other digital tools it was possible to work out the orientations from geo-referenced skulls and bone fragments.  It was also possible to map these against other landscape features such as to show how the burials related to the church or a line of wall.  From that data it was possible to show how people moved around the churchyard. 

Primarily Peter Rauxloh talks about the development of three digital technologies that have transformed the archaeological profession: 

  1. Databases (to handle and analysis large chunks of data)
  2. GIS (spatial distribution) 
  3. 3D Technologies (stratigraphic investigation)

Overall this is a highly useful introductory talk for anyone creating or making use of data obtained through digital means which examine archaeology and the landscape.

 To listen or watch this podcast please click here.

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Digital History
31 May 2011
Professor Richard Rodger (Edinburgh)
Space, place and the city: a simple anti-GIS approach for historians


William EDGAR- City and Castle of Edinburgh 1765


If you suggest using GIS (geographical information system) to an historian they might look back at you blankly or with a look of mild horror on their face.  For many historians GIS is viewed (not unfairly) as a complicated tool best left to others.  However, its potential usefulness in answering and revealing research questions is pretty much indisputable.  Richard Rodger wants to show that working on the spatial does not necessarily require GIS work and where it does, it is often highly rewarding.  In this paper Rodger wants to look at alternatives to GIS, to more simple processes for investigating the spatial.  He does this not just with the academic historian in mind, but also the local historian, the student, and other interested researchers.  Using pre-established geo-referencing tools and by following straight forward techniques can be highly rewarding and relatively easy to learn.  Take the Google Maps platform as an example.  Rodger describes in this paper how to use Google tools to map spatially various statistical data with minimum of effort.  Then there is his own project, Visualising Urban Geographies, which uses Edinburgh as a template for building mapping tools specifically designed for use by historians.  By investigating data by addresses or districts, this project allows historians to create spatial boundaries to link maps to the boundaries of data.  In other words a set of district records can be mapped accurately and displayed in a way useful for interpretation. 

Rodger wants everyone to be able to investigate the spatial and emphasises that it does not necessarily need to be complicated or time consuming. 

To listen to this podcast/video please click here.


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