Historical GIS and various Google Earth Mashups – into SL?

What would be enormously cool would be to link the various historical GIS / Google Earth Mashups – into SL. After all, the world depicted in the historical GIS only exists as bits bytes and imagination. So why not take the next step through the GIS into a representation of its data in SL? Imagine that you were interested in the development of the city of Ottawa in the 19th century, and one of the addresses you find is linked via SLURL into SL. Click, and you’re in that structure, with its contents and inhabitants available for conversation. Would this be anything more than a gimmick?

Perhaps… but if the experience of the space has any effect on how lives were lived in that space, perhaps not. Maybe the way to link it would be to allow users of the GIS interested in particular locations to tag them with a SLURL to their own reconstruction of that space/place… a 3-dimensional discussion – virtual living history?

Here’s a list of various historical GIS etc for perusal…

Various Historical GIS Systems

China Historical GIS


Allows dynamic interaction with the map, simple querying of the dots-on-the-map – then, once you’ve found it, it will map it for you on Google Earth, Multi-map, etc

Great Britian Historical GIS

Data and university research lives at:

The Great Britain Historical Geographical Information System is a unique digital collection of information about Britain’s localities as they have changed over time. Information comes from census reports, historical gazetteers, travellers’ tales and historic maps, assembled into a whole that is much more than the sum of its parts. This site tells you more about the project itself and about historical GIS.

A separate site, funded by the UK National Lottery, has been created to make this resource available on-line to everyone, presenting our information graphically and cartographically. This site is called A Vision of Britain Through Time and presents the history of Great Britain through places. It can be found at:


Some points of interest re the GBHGIS:
• Like any mainstream GIS, the original GBH GIS could hold information only about units whose locations we knew. There are a few historical units which appear, for example, in tax lists but whose location is unknown. There are a great many more whose boundaries have yet to be mapped. The core of our new system is a systematic list of all the units we know about – currently over 48,000 units, linked by over 150,000 relationships.
• This core system is not, strictly speaking, a GIS at all: it is implemented using Oracle database software, requires no locational data at all and is organised as an ontology, or “polyhierarchic thesaurus”. Each unit can have any number of names, hierarchic relationships are held very flexibly, and we use a system of “date objects” which enable us to record changes as precise calendar dates, as years, or as strings of text such as “at least 1174 but possibly as early as 983”. [SMG: This is interesting, because it is much more flexible, lets all sorts of ‘fuzzy’ data get incorporated]
• Although knowing boundaries is not compulsory, we use the Oracle Spatial extension to hold over 40,000 boundary polygons, with dates, for many units. These polygons were created by our own earlier work, by Roger Kain and Richard Oliver’s work at Exeter University on the boundaries of Ancient Parishes, and recent work we have done on Scottish parish boundaries. The system can use hierarchical relationships to infer approximate locations for units lacking boundaries.

The public face of the GBGIS:


You interact with this site by inputting a place name or a postal code. I used the postal code for where I used to live – KT10 8NS and received the following info:
“Elmbridge is a District/Unitary Authority in the county of Surrey, in England. It is part of the South East.
This is a modern unit which was reported on by the 2001 census. Most of our historical statistics were originally gathered for units with quite different boundaries. To give you a clear picture of long-run change, we have used our detailed information on boundaries and population distribution to redistrict the historical statistics to the modern units.
Statistical comparisons will be made with England and Wales (change comparison)”
There followed information broken into the following sections:
“Population: In 1801 Elmbridge’s total population was 6,986. In 1901 it was 35,058. By 2001 the population was 121,911. -> more information”

“Life and Death: In 1851, 114 babies in every thousand died in their first year. In 1911 it was 80. By 2001 the rate was 3. -> more information”

and so on, for “industry”, “social class”, “language and learning”, “agricultural and land use”, “work and poverty”, “housing”, “roots and religion”, and then some more cartographic materials – “boundaries”, “relationships and changes”, “other units”

So while this site presents a vast amount of material in an appealing and effective manner, it is still for all of that, rather static.

National Historic GIS (US)


This site hosts information you can grab for your own GIS uses. You search their catalogue for info related to a place of interest. And you must register first.

Buffalo Historical GIS


The Buffalo Historical GIS (Geographical Information System) is an interdisciplinary project directed by Dr. Jean Richardson of the Department of History and Social Studies Education. Other faculty participants include Dr. Tao Tang and Mary Perrelli from the Department of Geography and Planning, Dr. M. Stephen Pendleton of the Economics Department and Dr. Gordon Fraser of the Great Lakes Center.
This prototype consists of several ArcIMS map layers containing feature data digitized from historic maps of Buffalo. The following maps are currently available:
• Buffalo in 1850
• Buffalo in 1900
• Pan-American Exposition 1901
• Buffalo Ward Boundaries
Future map layers will include additional feature categories such as schools, hospitals, grocery stores, taverns, theaters, etc., with links to additional text and images. Other map layers and attached databases will allow the display of demographic data such as population density, ethnicity, household income, property values, and governmental information.

National Historic Sites of Canada


Not a GIS per se, but rather a java-based clickable map that lets you click through to a blurb on a historic site once you’ve zoomed in on a particular area. And interestingly enough, a national historic site might not be in this system IF it is not currently under the admin of Parks Canada – sites admin’d by the NCC for instance are missing…

Grand repertoire du patrimoine bati de Montreal


This site lets you search by house # and street, to pull up all of the information (and sometimes photos) related to that house IF it is a designated heritage site. I am certain that at one time this site provided thematic map layers of the city and related the heritage info for particular house of interest to those maps… but I can’t seem to find it now.

From the Museum of London:

a google maps mashup for annotating the city of London

Speaking of google maps mashups, see the following for historically themed mashups:


And on a not very related theme at all, but relevant to the idea of a historical gis type site where you’d get to manipulate historical documents on your own is:


This is a site related to the classical world. The module itself is a numismatics module that takes you through how to classify, study, and publish ancient coins. Notable for the fact that you can manipulate some of the coins, and are taken by the hand through the entire process – including how to work with the often impenetrable coin catalogues. Now imagine that for an 1875 Valuation Roll and how to decipher 19th century handwriting…

World Explorer


From the website: an internet application that allows visitors to explore the world and it’s events using Google Maps and a dynamic timeline. The application is still in development, but we are working to build a community of interested people who can help get this project off the ground.

Historical Marker Database


‘History happened here’ is the theme – users mark up the world (via google earth) with historical information…

Your History Here


from the website: “Do you know something unusual about a place, building or street? Some odd factoid, rumour or tidbit? Share it here, and if you’re lucky someone will follow up with more info on your place.”

Also: “Hello, and welcome to YourHistoryHere, the place where you can share your knowledge about those unusual places, buildings or things that make places interesting to live. This site is on limited circulation at the moment, and is only supposed to be a mySociety demo, not a big posh project like PledgeBank. It may not be obvious, but the most important feature of YourHistoryHere is the construction of an underlying system for collecting and sharing geographic annotations in an open syndicated format, so you can use the yummy local data people leave for your own purposes. We’re building two sites that show how this can be useful, this one and Placeopedia.com, and we’d love to share the code for other ideas. Anyone want to build WhereIHadMyFirstKiss.com? Tom Steinberg, mySociety Director – 23/08/2005″

What is also interesting about this are the discussions that seem to erupt after somebody posts a new spot – disputing / corroborating what the original poster had to say.

eRuv: A Street History in Semacode


taking things down to the level of a single street, from the website: “eRuv is a digital graffiti project installed along the route of the former Third Avenue elevated train line in lower Manhattan. The train line, dismantled in 1955, was more than just a means of transport; it was part of an important religious boundary — an eruv — for a Hasidic community on the old Lower East Side. Using semacodes, the former boundary is reconstructed and mapped back onto the space of the city. Pedestrians with camera phones can then access location-specific historical content linked through the semacodes.”