Historical Mapping and Geographical Information Systems

Historical Mapping and Geographical Information Systems, Institute of Historical Research, London, May 6, 2014

Researchers increasingly see the value of including mapping in their work, but the software used for creating maps – Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – can do much more than simply create maps as illustrations. GIS is being used in a variety of contexts to make sense of information with a spatial component, be it at the level of buildings and streets or at the level of nations, and to perform sophisticated geospatial and topographical analyses. Historians approaching their work with geographical research questions in mind not only have to come to terms with the cartographical and technical learning curves that come with the use of GIS, but they also have to address the added complication of changing geographical ‘units’ (both administrative boundaries and physical topography) over time. Fortunately, these complexities can be overcome, turning GIS into an extremely powerful research tool.

This introductory one-day workshop, taught by Dr. Justin Colson, seeks to introduce the basic concepts behind and the practicalities of implements mapping historical information using GIS software. It will focus on a number of areas:

  • Basic mapping concepts and structures (projects, co-ordinate systems, symbology etc.)
  • The notion of GIS as a database – where data is graphical as well as alphanumeric – rather than as ‘map-drawing tool’
  • Different types of geographical and historical data (vector, raster, polygon, point, tabular), and the various approaches to combining them to answer research questions
  • The preparation of historical data for use with a GIS (georeferencing)
  • Sources of existing geographical datasets (both current and historical) to help you begin mapping your own data quickly

The workshop will include hands-on practical sessions using GIS software to view and manipulate historical data, and will provide the opportunity for generating (and analysing) the kinds of thematic mapping that is the product of this research tool. No previous experience of using GIS software is necessary, although a familiarity with data would be beneficial.

Course fee is £75. Registration is required.

Posted on Apr 4, 2014 in Courses & Workshops



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Founded in 2010 through a generous gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation, the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of knowledge about the rich heritage of Byzantine art and culture.

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