WorldMap - Geospatial Visualization and the Digital Humanities

Posted in: Maps, Museums
Tags: aerial photographs, Ajlun, Anthropology, Archaeology, Cyprus, Galilee, Geospatial Visualization and the Digital Humanities, Giza plateau, jordan, Nelson Glueck, photography, photos, Road of Horus, world map
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By: Jeff Howry, Ph.D., Research Associate, Semitic Museum

WorldMap is a collaborative, interactive web-based mapping platform, not just a static presentation of map data.  Users can contribute data to build their own maps or add their own data layers using any of 13 different base maps provided by Bing, Google, ESRI, OpenStreetMap and others.  Users can comment or annotate places on existing maps that they or others create.   Maps and layers created by users can be private, shared with designated colleagues and classmates or published publicly.

WorldMap.harvard.edu (click photo)

Why WorldMap?

The web has many mapping platforms, from Bing and Google Maps to more sophisticated mapping applications like ArcGIS online and Google Earth.  Although some of these applications allow users to place data on maps that can be shared with everyone, the display of the data is static, only allowing others to view what the user created.  WorldMap provides many of the same capabilities but with an important difference – you can give others permission to just view specific data in a map or select users who may edit the data displayed on a map.  In addition, you can choose any of more than a dozen aerial or street base maps on which to display your data.  Built-in tools include a searchable gazetteer and the capability of annotating a layer within a map with ‘Notes’ or by creating shapes which allow the display of text or images when clicked by the user.

What WorldMap Provides

WorldMap allows users to understand the geographic context of what defines events and patterns of history.  It provides spatial meaning to events and artifacts by recognizing their geographic context.

WorldMap enables collaboration among colleagues and students:

  • Geo-reference your research and provide links to published articles.
  • Share your research in-progress with just your colleagues or with a collaboration team.
  • Allow selected users to annotate your spatially-referenced research.
  • Enable students to publish their course research.
  • Publish your research to the world at no cost.

Built-In Tools

WorldMap permits the publishing of a variety of mapped content.  These include a web-based application named ‘Warp’ for georeferencing maps or aerial photographs. The ‘Create Feature’ tool allows the user to add points, lines and polygons to a layer, each of which can be associated with descriptive text or hyperlinks to other websites.  All of these tools and features of WorldMap only require use of your browser, with no additional software.  (Note: WorldMap is built to open source standards, so using either a current version of Firefox or Chrome browser will provide full functionality.)

Application of WorldMap Features

Examples of georeferenced plans and maps range from the street grid of Carthage (http://worldmap.harvard.edu/maps/neareastcollab/L_- ) to a map of the island of Cyprus (1975 political boundaries – http://worldmap.harvard.edu/maps/neareastcollab/L-8).  Aerial photographs can be georeferenced so that they can be overlaid on current terrain imagery.  Examples can be found for Ajlun, Jordan in 1972 (http://worldmap.harvard.edu/maps/neareastcollab/L-7 ) or a 1945 aerial photo of Shinkin in Galilee (http://worldmap.harvard.edu/maps/neareastcollab/MBe).  Site plans of various portions of the Giza plateau have been published at http://worldmap.harvard.edu/maps/giza.  Click on the various boxes associated with different layers to view plans.

For an example of mapping a trading route, the author created the Road of Horus (http://worldmap.harvard.edu/maps/neareastcollab/MDo), the overland route travelled for millennia between Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean.

The Road of Horus

The trading center of Pelusium (http://worldmap.harvard.edu/maps/neareastcollab/MDh) was once located on the eastern-most tributary of the Nile, where it was a port city and western terminus of the Road of Horus.  If you click on the blue square labeled Pelusium, a pop-up box will provide more details about the site and a reference to additional sources.  A user with a WorldMap account (free) can login and provide a comment to share with others visiting this specific map.  All the features on the Road of Horus were created using the ‘Create Feature’ tool built into WorldMap.

Annotating the site of Pelusium

Eastern Palestine & Jordan – Glueck’s ASOR surveys

Over a period of fifteen years (1932–1947), Nelson Glueck conducted and published the first archaeological surveys of eastern Palestine and Jordan, in what was then the British Protectorate.  The extent of these surveys have been published on WorldMap as part of an ongoing collaboration of ASOR and the Semitic Museum, Harvard University, to trace the extensive travel and surveys of the former Director of ASOR’s Jerusalem research center (http://worldmap.harvard.edu/maps/glueck).  Clicking on one of the green triangles will display a pop-up window that identifies the site and a hyperlink.  Clicking on the hyperlink (e.g. #7 El-Hosb) will open a new browser tab that displays the image and reference source from the Glueck digital archive.  This is an example of the much larger effort that is part of a multi-year effort to document Nelson Glueck’s research.

Nelson Glueck Surveys (click photo)

Fall 2014 – Learning about WorldMap

During the Fall 2014 term there will be a weekly video conference (Mondays, 5 PM, Eastern Time – Connect Here) where WorldMap will be demonstrated and discussed.  Anyone is welcome to join the discussion. Detailed information can be found the on the WorldMap Collaborative website.  For anyone wanting a quick overview, a visit to about.worldmap.harvard.edu will provide a list of features. Interested users can subscribe to periodic updates about the WorldMap Collaborative by joining out list at: https://lists.fas.harvard.edu/mailman/listinfo/worldmap.  Current Statistics disclose more than 780,000 unique visitors from all countries of the world.

Future Developments

The Ancient World Mapping Center (AWMC) at the University of North Carolina has recently made the Barrington Atlas available in a format which can be readily displayed on WorldMap.

“…the Barrington Atlas recreates the entire world of the Greeks and Romans from the British Isles to the Indian subcontinent and deep into North Africa. It spans the territory of more than 75 modern countries. … Over 70 experts, aided by an equal number of consultants, have worked from satellite-generated aeronautical charts to return the modern landscape to its ancient appearance, and to mark ancient names and features in accordance with the most up-to-date historical scholarship and archaeological discoveries.” WorldCat

In order to implement the Barrington Atlas and related hydrographic layers on WorldMap, a modest amount of programming is required to allow users to incorporate the Atlas layers into their maps. The Semitic Museum will work with the Center for Geographic Analysis over the coming months to enable Ancient World Mapping Center layers to be easily discovered and displayed in WorldMap.

For further information on WorldMap or on supporting this WorldMap project, please contact:

Jeff Howry, Ph.D.
Research Associate
Semitic Museum
6 Divinity Avenue
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138
jhowry@fas.harvard.edu

 

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