Spatial Mapping Enlarges Understanding of History of a Place

Posted on Aug 4, 2011

Article from NYT by Patricia Cohen
Link to article

Advanced technology similar to Google Earth, MapQuest and the GPS systems used in millions of cars has made it possible to recreate a vanished landscape. This new generation of digital maps has given rise to an academic field known as spatial humanities. Historians, literary theorists, archaeologists and others are using Geographic Information Systems — software that displays and analyzes information related to a physical location — to re-examine real and fictional places like the villages around Salem, Mass., at the time of the witch trials; the Dust Bowl region devastated during the Great Depression; and the Eastcheap taverns where Shakespeare’s Falstaff and Prince Hal caroused.

Like the crew on the starship Enterprise, humanists are exploring a new frontier of the scholarly universe: space.

Mapping spatial information reveals part of human history that otherwise we couldn’t possibly know,” said Anne Kelly Knowles, a geographer at Middlebury College in Vermont. “It enables you to see patterns and information that are literally invisible.” It adds layers of information to a map that can be added or taken off at will in various combinations; the same location can also be viewed back and forth over time at the click of a mouse.

1 Comment

  1. sandy sanders
    February 26, 2012

    I would like to see GIS mapping of our ecosystems through history. For instance in the Bay Area the Ohlone tribelets lived very successfully for over 10,000 years with little to no negative impact on the land. In “The Ohlone Way” the descriptions of the pre-european impacted environment are so exhilarating (the “sky becoming black with birds”, oak trees and creeks everywhere, bears, deer, and bountiful fish and shellfish and so on) that it seems a virtual replication via map in time layers, then some form of 3D animation be it birdseye view or a film immersion experience, would be incredibly important in enabling citizens to “experience” the virtues of what a truly natural earthian environment, in their existing space, would be like. This would allow us to visualize back and be able plan a re-occupation of this living space for all life. Just imagine what the star-lit sky was like back then!


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