Historical Geographic Information Systems (HGIS) for reconstructing the past

Workshop in the framework of “Technological Innovations in the Humanities”
at the National Library of Israel

16-17 January, 2013

The traditional use of maps within the field of historical geography is being modernized by the incorporation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that allow the analysis of spatial databases and the integration of various historical sources within a common geographic framework. The advent of the internet and web-based GIS servers enable the public to explore, analyze and visualize spatial data and maps. However, the world as portrayed in maps depends on technology and on the intentions of the map maker, as well as on the scale of the map and time it was made. Reconstructing past land cover and land use from historical maps therefore requires the user to be aware of issues of map accuracy and map completeness, in addition to the physical deterioration of maps.

The workshop, sponsored by the National Library of Israel, was led by Dr. Noam Levin (Dept. of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), and hosted two world leaders in historical GIS: Prof. Prof. David Bodenhamer (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, USA) and Dr. Ian Gregory (Lancaster University, UK).

1st Session — Historical Geography and Historical GIS

Chair: Noam Levin
Historical Geography in Israel and its development (Rehav Rubin, HUJI)
Geographic Information Systems — an overview (Ian Gregory, Lancaster)
More than GIS: The emergence of spatial humanities (David Bodenhamer, IUPUI)

2nd Session — GIS and the Digital Humanities

Chair: David Bodenhamer

Map libraries and archives in the digital era — The National Library of Israel (Ido Ivri, NLI)
Web interfaces for accessing historical and GIS information on the internet (Yoav Rofe, amudanan.co.il)
The Spatial Humanities project in the UK (Ian Gregory, Lancaster)
Queensland Historical Atlas: histories, cultures and landscapes (Owen Powell, UQ)

3rd Session — Historical GIS — map completeness and accuracy
Chair: Ian Gregory
Assessing the thematic accuracy and completeness of historical maps (Noam Levin, HUJI)
Reconstructing Palestine’s land-cover from the PEF (1880) map (Gad Schaffer, HUJI)
Using historical nautical charts, maps and aerial photos, for studying coastal morphology processes in Israel (Dov Zviely, Haifa)

4th Session — Applications of HGIS
Chair: Ruth Kark
The Geographies of the Holocaust (Anne Kelly Knowles, Middlebury)
Late 18th century Russian Navy maps and the first 3D visualization of the walled city of Beirut (Mitia Frumin, Lander Institute)
Historical Photos & GIS: methodological and content issues, demonstrated on the Bab ez-Zahira neighborhood, Jerusalem (1850-1948) (Lavi Shai, Yad Ben Zvi)
Mapping artesian springs in western New South Wales, Australia: an analysis of 19th century surveys (Owen Powell, UQ)
Using texts in GIS: Exploring landscape appreciation through historical writing (Ian Gregory, Lancaster)