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Putting History on The Map

By [email protected] - 19th October 2010 - 11:41

Cardiff Council has an extensive collection of historical images dating back to 1860. These fascinating images detail the massive changes that have taken place in Cardiff over the last 150 years. When two Council colleagues got chatting they came up with a new idea to make these images both relevant and instantly available to the public.
Jeremy Jones the Councilâs Corporate GIS Team Leader who also has a deep interest in local history takes up the story, âWith my GIS background I immediately saw the potential in geocoding these images and using them in conjunction with the Councilâs public facing web mapping facility which uses Astun Technologyâs iShare platform. By geocoding each photo and placing it on a map it is possible to avoid that age old question âI wonder where that was taken from.â Thereâs nothing new in this, a layer of historical photos is much like any of the other information held in the system but it does serve to make this rich archive much more accessible and perhaps more importantly, geographically and historically relevant.âThe images were already linked to a database used by Cardiff Libraries online Local Studies Catalogue which contained some location general information such as road or building name or the parish in which the picture was taken, although it was far from complete. A matching exercise was undertaken using the Councilâs LLPG (Local Land and Property Gazetteer) which only yielded a hit rate of 12%, but at least this was a start.The next stage was to populate the Councilâs GIS with the points of those photos for which they had matches and then commence some research to locate those photos for which there was no information. Numerous images of the city centre were easy to locate because many of the buildings still exist or at least were there in recent years, however many others were more difficult and more painstaking research was required to locate them. This included using old maps and other image sources for reference. Inevitably some of the images proved almost impossible to locate with any degree of accuracy but the collection of photos that could be located is still sizeable.Since iShare is underpinned by a PostgreS - PostGIS geospatial database it was a simple matter to load the photos and their locations. On the Cardiff Council website the historic photos simply appear as another layer that can be switched on an off from within the âMy Mapsâ interface. Selecting the Historical Images layer lights up the map with all the photo location icons. Selecting the information tool and hovering over an icon reveals a list of all the photos in the close vicinity. Clicking on one of these will zoom the map and reveals the relevant photo in the pane below with approximate date and description.âThis is a valuable resource for those interested in local history and particularly useful for school children learning about their local area. The project has been such a success that several service areas in the Council have come forward with their own historic images which they have asked to be added to the archive. These are photos that would otherwise never have seen the light of day,â said Jeremy Jones.

Author: Mike Saunt

Bio.: Managing director of Astun Technology Ltd

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