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Historical geographic information system

national historical geographic information system, historical geographic information systems
A historical geographic information system also written as historical GIS or HGIS is a geographic information system that may display, store and analyze data of past geographies and track changes in time It can be regarded as a subfield of historical geography and geographic information science

GIS was originally developed for use in environmental sciences, military and for computer assisted cartography It is the opinion of some that the tools developed for these uses are ill suited for the features of historical data


  • 1 Techniques used in HGIS
  • 2 Notable Historical GIS projects
  • 3 Software or web services developed for Historical GIS
  • 4 See also
  • 5 Literature
  • 6 Notes
  • 7 External links

Techniques used in HGISedit

  • Digitization and georeferencing of historical maps Old maps may contain valuable information about the past By adding coordinates to such maps, they may be added as a feature layer to modern GIS data This facilitates comparison of different map layers showing the geography at different times The maps may be further enhanced by techniques such as rubbersheeting, which spatially warps the data to fit with more accurate modern maps
  • Reconstruction of past boundaries By creating polygons of former administrative sub-divisions and borders, aggregate statistics can be compared through time
  • Georeferencing of historical microdata such as census or parish records This enables the use of spatial analysis to historical data

Notable Historical GIS projectsedit

  • Great Britain Historical GIS, A GIS enabled database holding diverse geo-referenced maps, statistics, gazetteers and travel writing, especially for the period 1801-2001 covered by British censuses Public access via the Vision of Britain site Created and maintained by Portsmouth University
  • China Historical GIS similar project for Imperial China developed by the universities of Harvard and Fudan, China
  • David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, one of the world's largest map collections, which has digitized and georeferenced a large part of its collection and published it on the internet
  • Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative ECAI a clearinghouse for the exchange of metadata of Historical GIS Maintained by the University of California, Berkeley
  • HGIS Germany Institute of European History Mainz and Institute i3mainz at the University of Applied Sciences 1
  • HisGIS Netherlands includes vectorized real estate boundaries of the oldest cadastral maps of several regions of the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, which have been linked to historical registers such as election, tax revenue and parish registers Developed by the Fryske Akademy2
  • Belgian Historical GIS tracks the development of administrative boundaries in Belgium since 1800 Developed by the University of Ghent3
  • The National Historical Geographic Information System NHGIS system for displaying and analyzing Census tracts and tract changes in the United States
  • HistoAtlas is an open historical geographical information system that tries to build a free historical atlas of the world
  • Atlas-Historical Cartography This website provides information on the evolution of administrative boundaries of Portugal, and on censuses and other statistical series for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Public access via the Atlas-Historical Cartography
  • Mammoth Cave Historical GIS documents the people who lived in the Mammoth Cave region before it became a national park Public access via MCHGIS
  • Bibliosof-HGIS Russian National Historical Geographic Information System 1
  • Wikimaps project that will integrate georeferences maps on Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata and Wikipedia
  • OldMapsOnline Historical maps search engine Provide access to georeferenced digitized historical maps from various collections through a map-based interface4

Software or web services developed for Historical GISedit

  • TimeMap — A Java open-source applet or program for browsing spatial-temporal data and ECAI data sets5 Developed by the department of archaeology University of Sydney
  • Version 4+ of Google Earth added a time line feature that enables simple temporal browsing of spatial data6

See alsoedit

  • GIS in archaeology
  • Spatiotemporal database


  • Joachim Laczny: Friedrich III 1440–1493 auf Reisen Die Erstellung des Itinerars eines spätmittelalterlichen Herrschers unter Anwendung eines Historical Geographic Information System Historical GIS In: Joachim Laczny, Jürgen Sarnowsky eds: Perzeption und Rezeption Wahrnehmung und Deutung im Mittelalter und in der Moderne Nova Mediaevalia Quellen und Studien zum europäischen Mittelalter, 12, Göttingen: V&R unipress 2014, p 33–65 ISBN 978-3-8471-0248-9
  • Ian N Gregory, Paul Ell: Historical GIS: Technologies, Methodologies, and Scholarship Cambridge Studies in Historical Geography 2008 ISBN 978-0-521-67170-5
  • Anne Kelly Knowles: Past Time, Past Place: GIS for history A collection of twelve case studies on the use of GIS in historical research and education ESRI press 2002 ISBN 1-58948-032-5
  • Anne Kelly Knowles, Amy Hillier eds: Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship 2008 ISBN 978-1-58948-013-1
  • Ian N Gregory: A place in History A short introduction to HGIS by the lead developers of GBHGIS ISSN 1463-5194
  • Ott, T and Swiaczny, F: Time-integrative GIS Management and analysis of spatio-temporal data, Berlin / Heidelberg / New York: Springer 2001 ISBN 3-540-41016-3
  • Feature edition of Historical development GIS in the journal Social Science History 24 2000, Introduction by Anne Kelly Knowles


  1. ^ HGIS Germany in German
  2. ^ Web site for the HisGIS Netherlands
  3. ^ Web site for the Belgian Historical GIS
  4. ^ Web site for OldMapsOnline
  5. ^ Project homepage
  6. ^ Announcement of the feature at the Google Earth blog

External linksedit

  • The Historical GIS Research Network
  • Joachim Laczny: The late medieval ruler Frederick III 1440–1493 on the journey The creation of the itinerary using a Historical Geographic Information System Historical GIS
  • History-GIS Mailing List
  • Historical Geographic Information Systems Online Forum on Google
  • Geohistory - Historical GIS in Polish
  • Atlas-Historical Cartography in Portuguese - Atlas-Historical Cartography in English
  • Videos of presentations January 16, 2013 - Historical GIS for reconstructing the past
  • OldMapsOnline

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