OpenStreetMap for Mapping of Historical Sites

May 20th, 2010 |

OpenStreetMap is a wiki style map of the entire world.  It has a flexible key/value tagging system that allows the data in it to evolve relatively easily.  This flexibility has allowed it to be used in everything from disaster response to micro-mapping of locations such as zoos and parks.  There are lots of examples of historical sites mapped within OSM.  One local to the Washington D.C. area is Arlington National Cemetery.

In other areas there have been efforts to create maps from OpenStreetMap data towns at various snapshots in time.  This is done by utilizing begin and end date tags for buildings.  That way if you render a map for the year 1840 for example only those buildings standing during that time while be displayed.  Frankie Roberto has an interesting series of slides showing this idea of start and end attributes in OpenStreetMap.

When I asked on one of the OSM community mailing lists for examples of sites of historical significance in OpenStreetMap I received many responses.  I’m interested in discussing this application of the project as well as potentially others of interest to the digital humanities.

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2 Responses to “OpenStreetMap for Mapping of Historical Sites”

  1. wonderchook Says:

    Eli, I’ve done a bit of grassroots mapping with kites in the context of the oil spill. I’d be interested in talking about that as well in relation to imagery of historic places.

  2. Eli Says:

    This is a really interesting proposal. I’m particularly curious for how the research necessary for National Register Historic Districts can be organized and fed back into OSM. For example, I have a block by block account of date of construction and builder for about three neighborhoods in West Baltimore but right now that data only exists in a narrative form. I think there is also great potential for urban historians and architectural historians to use DIY aerial photography (following on the really interesting work on Grassroots Mapping by Jeffrey Warren at the Center for Future Civic Media. Higher resolution imagery of historic places could definitely make it easier to trace existing buildings into OSM.


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