Summary of Project Proposal

Over the past two decades historians and geographers around the world have incorporated advances in technology to allow new understanding of historical change. The impetus has been the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to historical questions and, more recently, the ability to share research results with a wide public through web mapping resources. In Canada, this exciting new work has resulted in fresh insights into how our nation has developed.

Scholarship using Historical Geographic Information Systems (HGIS) involves labour-intensive data preparation before advanced spatial analysis or visualization of patterns can be achieved. However, once data are geo-enabled (spatial data) they can be used by other scholars anywhere, over and over again. There are enormous financial and scholarly benefits to sharing spatial data but as yet no suitable frameworks exist in Canada to permit or facilitate such re-use of scarce resources.

Unlike many other countries, Canada does not yet have a central repository for national HGIS data and we also lack digitization and metadata standards for sharing of spatial data among researchers. Without a forum or a national community of HGIS practitioners and data scientists, new ideas, technical innovations, best practices and labour saving techniques are slow to be adopted.

This lack of a central repository is an obstacle to the growth of HGIS research in Canada. This project aims to consolidate efforts to address this major historical resource, and bring efficiency and economies of scale to these endeavours. In addition, Canadians are increasingly demanding that publicly funded data and research be made easily available and accessible. This project leverages these previous investments in historical research to support the needs of the future.

By communicating with and convening meetings of existing and potential partners, we will build consensus towards the best means of achieving these goals. By creating working papers and pilot websites and applications, we will crystallize the alternatives and create a viable path forward. Although the focus of this proposal is on HGIS work done in Canada, we will also look at international solutions, and communicate with potential partners from around the world.

The Canadian HGIS Partnership will work towards its goals by achieving the following objectives over the course of a two year period. We will:

  1. Build and expand a network of Canadian researchers and community members engaged in Historical GIS
  2. Produce and disseminate a series of White Papers on HGIS methods
  3. Develop HGIS-specific standards for Geospatial data structure and for Research Data
  4. Build a pilot version of an open, accessible Historical GIS data portal.
  5. Build a pilot version of an open, accessible interactive mapping website.

The research and development activities proposed are the beginnings of a strong infrastructure for conducting historical research, in a geographic context. This framework will allow for the effective creation of historical GIS research data, their storage and long-term preservation, their sharing among known and unforeseen collaborators. In addition, this project is part of the broader movement to create a new culture of openness and collaboration in research activities. The participants are committed to sharing their own research data sources, and jointly building shared resources to enable others to build on their work.

For more information, see Project Proposal, Summary and Goals

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