Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free historical GIS downloads

Left image: Amien Cathedral.
Right image: Villers-Bretonneux, battlefields of northern France.

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
Email contact

Where am I??
Sydney: S: 34º 0' E: 151º 0'

The discussion in a recent Spatialworlds postings leads us to the question;

“how should curriculum developers and teachers proceed to connect geography with history in the curriculum?”

Curriculum writers could begin the connection by mapping geographical concepts against historical content and in fact even historical concepts. For example we could map for any historical topic the:

* five geographic themes, presented in the US guidelines for geographic education: location, place, relationships within places, movement, and regions (the National Council for Geographic Education, the Association of American Geographers, and the National Geographic Society have endorsed these five themes as foundations for geography education in schools)

* seven concepts of the UK National Curriculum for geography: place, space, scale, interdependence, physical and human processes, environmental interaction and sustainability development and cultural understanding and diversity.

Increasingly, concepts are being adopted by developers of curriculum to develop the contextual framework for a curriculum. In fact the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)is presently looking at what are the key concepts (page 6 of January 2011 Shape paper for Geography)for the geography curriculum presently under development. It will be interesting how closely they reflect the US and UK ones listed above.

An example of how curriculum writers in California have linked history and geography (using the US geographical concepts) is seen in the following treatment of the voyages of Columbus

Each of the five major themes of geography education is stated and described below in connection with key questions about a major event in world history.

* Location: People and places are positioned variously on the Earth's surface. Where in the world are places located? What are the locations of places in Europe and the Caribbean region that were linked by the Columbian voyages? How did the relative location of these places affect the events of the Columbian voyages?

* Place: Physical and human characteristics distinguish one place from other places. What makes a place special? How have the distinguishing characteristics of a place, such as Cuba, Santo Domingo, or Spain, changed because of cataclysmic events of the Columbian voyages?

* Relationships within Places: The interactions of humans with their environments shape the characteristics of both people and the environment. How do people change the natural environment and how does the environment influence the activities of people? How did human-environment interactions affect the physical and
human characteristics of the Western hemisphere region during and after the Columbian voyages?

* Movement: Human interactions on the Earth--people, products, and information affect the characteristics of places. What are the global patterns of movement of people, products, microbes, domestic animals, seeds, and information that developed as a consequence of the Columbian voyages?

* Regions: The earth can be divided into regions to help us understand similarities and differences of people and places. How did the Caribbean region form and change during and after the Columbian voyages? How did the regions of Western Europe and Western Africa change because of the Columbian voyages?

As can be seen above the geographic themes are indispensable aids to understanding of major event such as voyages of Columbus. Such a treatment of geographical concepts can be applied to whatever historical topics studied. Indeed, such a concept mapping exercise would be a very useful and indispensable activity when designing any of the following Australian history topics: the colonisation of Australia, World War 1, Australian migration in the 20th Century, Australian Federation etc. When we get the geographical concepts for the Australian Curriculum, such an activity would be an important developmental process for ensuring that geography and history are actually entwined and not seen as ‘silos of knowledge’ but one of mutual understanding and interdependence.

Here are a few more examples of how some teachers; both geography and history, are trying to reflect the entwinement of the two disciplines to create exciting, real world and valid studies with a touch of geographical determinism.

* http://library.thinkquest.org/C006628/

* http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/lessons/17/g912/greece.html

* http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/socst/pub/sscore2.pdf

* http://www.studentsfriend.com/onhist/combine.html

* http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4033/is_200404/ai_n9373908/

* http://www.ericdigests.org/1993/history.htm

Adding to the geography conceptual mapping process discussed above, the capacity of GIS to use geographical concepts and data to elucidate historical understanding has the potential to encourage the integration of history and geography in the curriculum.

To support schools in using GIS in history teaching I wrote a resource in 2004 titled; Historical GIS: Place + Space +Time. A collection of articles re: historical GIS can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/malcolmmcinerney/historicalgis. Free activity downloads from the book can be downloaded at

Here are brief summaries of the free download activities using GIS in the study of history.

* CEMETERY: This exercise aims to create a historical representation of a cemetery using the hotlinking capabilities of ArcView. Hotlinks are a wonderful way to add interest and detail to a map depicting spatial events or temporal change. This exercise involves the plotting and description of graves in a cemetery.

* EXPLORERS: Traces the journeys of early Australian explorers and provides visual data of the journeys via hotlinks to paths and points.

* BUILDING HERITAGE: Maps the houses in a suburban street in terms of age, building type, heritage value, authenticity and state of repair.

* WW1 BATTLE: Creates a historical representation of a battlefield using the hotlinking capabilities of ArcView. This exercise involves the plotting and description of trench lines and battle hot spots. The example used in this exercise involves the tracing of a soldier’s journey during World War 1 providing photographs, certificates and other relevant images via hotlinks.

* CHANGE OVER TIME: Shows change over time by the importing of aerial photographs over a time period and then doing some basic line and polygon creation (heads up digitising of the image) so as to clearly to see spatial changes over time.

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