Bringing Historical Census Alive with GIS
Researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) were seeking ways to engage students in investigations with historical census data. They wanted to create interactive maps of historical census data, such as population, race, etc. to support student investigations in history courses. The audience for this includes pre-service teachers as well as secondary students. Their goals included:
- Develop an open-ended system that could accommodate the creation of at least five, and potentially more separate historical investigations. Researchers need to be able to create new maps with new data.
- Students need to be able to explore a variety of maps that span the years from 1860 through 2000.
- The software had to be web-based and require minimal installation in order to encourage the widest dissemination.
We developed a web-based GIS system based on open source professional GIS software.
- Built on top of professional GIS software. We designed and developed a custom front-end to open source software to better support historical investigations (e.g. supports looking for change across time).
- Used the latest web innovations. We used the latest web techniques (e.g. AJAX, Web 2.0) to create a responsive easy-to-use interface that feels more like a desktop application than a web page.
- Linked artifacts to maps. We created a way to link documents to the maps.
- Provided technical expertise. We helped UIC specify, purchase, install, and maintain a heavy duty web server capable of handling the intense graphic load.
- Helped develop vision and grant proposal. We helped UIC develop the vision for the product, and assisted through the grant development process.
Try the GIS for History tool, hosted at www.gisforhistory.org.