Technology enhances the Humanities. The Humanities enhance Technology.

Trinity College Dublin published the Down Survey in a digitised form this week.

The Down Survey is according to its website  “…the first ever detailed land survey on a national scale anywhere in the world…” made between the years 1656-1658.

I happened to attend a presentation on the early stages of its development at a Google Developers Group, Dublin a number of years ago. I was fascinated at the interplay of history, database development, mapping, creativity and so on.

The work has now come to fruition allowing Geographic Information Systems to give us a picture of a place in time, and of a time in place, in this case using Google’s  mapping technology.

I believe it is important that this type of cross-curricular work is highlighted to secondary school-students as examples of good creative practices.

This is not the work of coders or programmers or historians or cartographers but the work of collaborators across all disciplines.

Technology enhances the Humanities. The Humanities enhance Technology.

As Ed Parsons of Google Tweeted on the launch of the Down Survey

 

 

3 comments

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  3. Callum Philbin

    Last year I came across ‘Digital Harlem’ which is an excellent collaborative research project that makes use of geographic information systems (http://acl.arts.usyd.edu.au/harlem/index.php). The GIS for this project organizes sources based on their shared geographical locations in Harlem between 1915-1930. The GIS integrates a variety of sources with their urban settings; for instance, newspaper reports and the District Attorney’s closed case files are matched with street addresses in Harlem. This allows researchers to engage with the heterogeneity of historical perspectives while interacting with aspects of Harlem’s history on a diminutive scale.

    The Digital Humanities department at Stanford University were one of the first to utilize GIS in historical research when they ‘mapped the republic of letters’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw0oS-AOIPE).

    In Cohen and Rosenzweig’s web-book, ‘Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving and Presenting the Past on the Web’, they outline that “tomorrow’s historians will glory in a largely digital historical record, which will transform the way they research, present, and even preserve the past” (Cohen and Rosenzweig, 2005). I think that Cohen and Rosenzweig’s vision has already become a reality as the Digital Harlem, Mapping the Republic of Letters and the Down Survey projects all depict how GIS can transform traditional historical scholarship to offer us glimpses into ephemeral moments in history.