HGIS Lab Gallery

A typical HGIS project begins with a stunning find in the archives—a revealing map, a volume of intriguing census data, or an early air photo.  Any document with spatial information can potentially be incorporated into a GIS.  Examples of spatial information include place names, landscape features, street addresses and intersections, property parcel descriptions, jurisdictional references, or latitude-longitude coordinates.  Converting paper sources into electronic data can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, so it is important to evaluate the benefit of a GIS analysis before undertaking the major step of digitizing historical sources.  The Historical GIS Lab digitizes archival maps, air photos, and keys in attribute information, such as corresponding census data, textual descriptions, or even images.  The GIS can serve as a useful tool to organize complex information based on location, topic, or time period.

Here are some examples of projects undertaken by the Historical GIS Lab.

Canadian Glacier Maps, 1950-2000

Scanned glacier map from northern Canada

Glacier map of northern Canada

For this straightforward project Environment Canada asked the Historical GIS Lab to help it convert a library map collection into digital form.  Several hundred large paper maps, created between the 1950s and recent years, depict the changing extent of glaciers in the Canadian north.  The Historical GIS Lab used its wide-format scanner to capture 400 dpi images of the paper maps, then georectified them to allow for overlay analysis or other use in a GIS.  A key objective of this project was to preserve these rare maps in an electronic format, to protect their content in case of loss or damage and also to make them more easily available to researchers.

This project required the following tasks:

  • scan large annotated topographic maps
  • georectify images

View sample images and read more details here.

Northern Great Plains Land Use, 1920-2000

Processing aerial photographs

Aerial photos transformed into a land use GIS

This project is part of the Great Plains Population and Environment Project and Andrew Dunlop’s Ph.D. dissertation research.  To compare changing agricultural land use on either side of the Canada-U.S. border during the 20th century, Dunlop collected aerial photos from the archives dating as early as the 1920s.  Brining the land cover revealed by these photos into a historical GIS allowed him to track evolving land use patterns across 80 years at sample sites in Montana, North Dakota, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

This project required the following tasks:

  • scan aerial photos
  • georectify and mosaic images
  • digitize land cover polygons
  • classify land cover and land use
  • key in attributes
  • analyze HGIS data
  • cartography

View sample images and read more details here.

Saskatchewan Métis Traditional Land Use

Traditional land use sketch map

Hand drawn map showing traditional land use territory.

As part of a Traditional Land Use survey, the Saskatchewan Métis Council, collaborating with researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, conducted several hundred oral history interviews with community members about their hunting, trapping, fishing, and gathering activities in northwestern Saskatchewan during the past three generations.  The result was a rich collection of recorded interviews and land use maps.  The research team contracted with the Historical GIS Lab to create a fully attributed GIS that combines information from all of the map material into a single place for cumulative analysis.
This project required the following tasks:

  • scan large hand-drawn maps
  • georectify images
  • digitize map features
  • key in attributes
  • train researchers to use the newly created HGIS

View sample images and read more details here.

Métis Atlas

The editors of a forthcoming atlas about Métis communities in North America contracted with the Historical GIS Lab to create basic cartography and page layout for several dozen plates to be included in the atlas.  Lab staff worked with the individual authors of each plate to create attractive maps and accompanying text and images.

This project required the following task:

  • GIS data collection
  • cartography

View sample images and read more details here.

Great Plains Breeding Bird Survey, 1967-2007

Annual BBS bird observation routes

Annual bird observation routes

The Breeding Bird Survey has been conducted every year in North America for many decades, providing one of the most expansive and  long-lasting datasets about animal biodiversity in the world.  But, in their most easily accessible form, these data are not simple to map or analyze.  The Historical GIS Lab undertook an effort to make these data accessible and user-friendly for people who want to map evolving bird diversity over the past 40 years.

This project required the following tasks:

  • convert existing GIS data
  • process and link existing attribute data
  • create a user-friendly historical GIS

View sample images and read more details here.

Southern Great Plains Wind Erosion Maps, 1936-1937

Dust storm photo

Texas dust storm, April 18, 1935

This is a project undertaken by the Historical GIS Lab in support of Dr. Geoff Cunfer’s research about the history of dust storms on the Great Plains.  It originated with a remarkable find in the U.S. National Archives Cartographic and Architectural Section in College Park, Maryland.  In the mid-1930s, in the midst of the Dust Bowl, the U.S. government conducted a detailed reconnaissance survey of the hardest-hit wind erosion area on the southern Great Plains.  The Soil Conservation Service created maps showing the soil characteristics, slope, land use, and erosion status of individual farms across some 30,000 square miles.  The Historical GIS Lab converted these archival maps into a fully attributed historical GIS.

This project required the following tasks:

  • georectify archival map images
  • digitize map features
  • key in attributes
  • mosaic and edgematch separate maps
  • overlay other maps
  • analyze historical GIS data
  • cartography

View sample images and read more details here.