In the past, territorial administrations managed their records through texts, archiving past records and thus creating a written trail.
Now, many information management systems simply overwrite earlier data, sacrificing the enormous benefits of a longitudinal record to clerical efficiency. Thus a first-order infrastructural need in linking history and geography, time and space, is a world historical gazetteer. While funding for such a project remains elusive, there are a number of examples that could serve as this project's foundations see sidebar. Computationally mining existing databases, dated digitized texts, and digitized georeferenced and dated maps could populate a world-historical gazetteer.
Beginning in the s, mathematically accurate cartography has mapped the globe.
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These maps provide information on routes, boundaries, physical features, and locations that texts cannot provide. For a limited historical period—but one which saw global growth at a pace unparalleled in human history—geo-referenced maps allow us to link place names, locations, and time and thus provide a foundation for georeferencing place names that appear in earlier texts. Manual data extraction will always be limited to specific projects; a systematic approach requires the extension of optical character recognition technology to maps.
Until such a project is funded, the best hope may lie with projects now beginning for crowd sourcing the extraction of data from scanned maps. Short of an historical gazetteer, georeferenced maps are the most important source for historical information about space and place. Georeferencing is the process of linking a piece of data to a space. There are several illustrations of projects that do this well.
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The David Rumsey Map Collection is a leader in the georeferencing of historical maps, with 29, scanned maps available online of which some 22, have rough georeferencing. A federated system for registering and sharing historical map scans now exists through Old Maps Online, a UK-based project. In effect it creates a union catalog of georeferenced historical maps, including those of the Rumsey collection, the New York Public Library, and soon the Harvard University Library and the Boston Public Library.
The user interface allows for searching on a map of the world, and for narrowing the search by time and space. For spatial datasets, OpenGeoportal. The World-Historical Dataverse of the Center for Historical Information and Analysis at the University of Pittsburg is creating a system for the collection, preservation and analysis of world historical data.
In contrast, there are valuable projects that allow interactive data query visualization online, but are not necessarily geared to making their datasets available for user download. Examples include two Stanford projects: Mapping the Republic of Letters a visualization of early modern letter exchanges and ORBIS , which tracks the time and cost of transportation and communication in the Roman Empire.
Flexible and user-friendly, the Social Explorer platform provides free and subscription editions for the visualization of spatialized data such as historical US census data. MapStory , also aimed at the individual researcher, allows users to upload their own GIS data with time attributes, display them dynamically on an online map, and permits others to download the data.
The final piece of cyberinfrastructure needed for a wider use of GIS is an online platform for sharing spatialized data both as online visualizations and downloadable data files. The goal is to make the maps and data layers a researcher creates accessible to others, so that others can take advantage of the accumulation of spatialized data in their own work. In this area, there has been significant progress.
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Geocommons, developed by the GeoIQ Companyis similar. In collaboration with the open-source web-mapping developer community, the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard is developing the WorldMap platform, allowing users to explore, visualize, edit and publish geographically referenced information. WorldMap has an expanding list of functionalities it wishes to add, but it already allows researchers to upload large datasets and combine them with those shared by others, create and edit maps and link map features to rich media content, grant edit permission to small or large groups, export data to standard formats, georeference paper maps scans online, and share data with just a few collaborators or with the entire world.
The promise of WorldMap is that it is cumulative; nearly five thousand registered users are already uploading and sharing their data and maps, and , others are viewing their work. Working with MapStory, it will soon add animations, allowing vivid displays of change over time. Historical georeferenced data is part of the world of big data that the digital environment has made part of our lives.
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As the cyberinfrastructural impediments give way, GIS technologory, federated geodata systems, and online mapping are likely to become part of the toolbox for the next generation of historians. He works on China's intellectual history and historical GIS. Baker, Alan R.
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New York: Cambridge University Press. Guldi, Jo. The Spatial Turn in History. The purpose of this book is not to announce that space is significant, which by now is well known, but to explore how space is analyzed by a variety of disciplines, to compare and contrast these approaches, identify commonalities, and explore how and why differences appear. The volume includes works by 13 scholars from a variety of geographical regions and disciplines.
The chapters combine up-to-date literature reviews concerning the role of space in each discipline and several offer original empirical analyses. Some chapters are concerned with Geography while others explore the role of space in contemporary Anthropology, Sociology, Religion, Political Science, Film, and Cultural Studies.
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The introduction surveys the development of the spatial turn across the fields under consideration. Despite frequent reference to the spatial turn, this is the first volume to explicitly address how theory and practice concerning space, is used in a variety of fields from diverse conceptual perspectives.
This book will appeal to everyone conducting conceptual and theoretical research on space, not simply in Geography, but in related fields as well.