marry maps, data and produce new insights
From "Map and Illustrations" in Salem Witchcraft
by Charles W. Upham (1867), W.P. Upham, the author's brother,
researched and drew the map, which purports to represent
the locations of major landmarks, farms, land grants, physical
features and the dwellings of prominent and important residents
in Salem during 1692. It can be viewed online at http://fisher.lib.Virginia.EDU/projects/salem
There's also an animated, visual recreation of Salem in
1692 at this new web site -- "The Salem Witchcraft
GIS," created by Mike Furlough of the Geospatial and
Statistical Data Center, along with the project's primary
researcher, Benjamin Ray (http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/%7Ebcr/salem/salem.html).
An illustration of the Salem witch trials, from a related
web site produced by the Danvers Archival Center, in conjunction
with U.Va.'s Electronic Text Center.
Information Systems?" What's wrong with calling them "maps"?
a natural question to ask while looking for the GIS lab in the
Geospatial and Statistical
Data Center of Alderman Library. Upon arriving at the third-floor
facility, though, the answer is clear: what's found on the computer
monitors there goes far beyond mere paper brochures that fold
course, it all starts with a map. But then users can overlay data
like toppings on a bowl of ice cream: census numbers, geographical
features, weather measurements, cows per acre -- the possibilities
seem limited only by the creativity of the user and the availability
of the data.
emerges are patterns, trends, answers.
definitely more than creating a map," said Michael Furlough,
associate director of the center, called the Geostat Center for
short. "It's using spatial visualization to answer questions."
applications for GIS technology are widespread. History
professor Edward L. Ayers uses it in his renowned "Valley
of the Shadow" project to show the movements of various military
units during the Civil War. The Virginia Coast Reserve uses it
in its Long-Term Ecological Research program to track coastal
erosion, among other things. Outside the University, GIS is used
to train local planners. Less academically, the University's Facilities
Management maintains comprehensive maps of the Grounds and its
buildings, and can, for example, display the location of every
magnolia tree on Grounds and list who is responsible for its maintenance.
"They make me look good," said Benjamin Ray, the Daniels
Family/NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor, who is using GIS
technology in researching the 1692 Salem witch trials. Starting
by scanning a hand-drawn map, he has now developed computer maps
showing the residences of various principal figures during the
trials and their relationships to others, with links to documents
involving them. Another map juxtaposes the hour-by-hour chronology
and geography of the various accusations.
"Maps give you context and historical content when you're
dealing with events that happened in a small town over 300 years
ago," Ray said. "You can get closer to what that means
by seeing where they live and whom they live next to."
first became involved with the Geostat Center through his work
with the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.
"This is from scratch," he said. "It was kind of
a sense of my asking, 'Can you do this?' and their responding,
" 'What if?' is really the interesting part of this,"
said Wallace Reed, an associate professor of environmental sciences
and unofficial leader of the University's GIS community.
1992, he and colleague David Phillips of urban and environmental
planning drew up plans for developing and extending research,
teaching and administrative applications for GIS technology. U.Va.
at the time was one of only "two or three" libraries
in the country focusing on GIS technology, Reed said. They and
Furlough head up the informal UVAGIS group that oversees the program,
which Reed calls "one of the largest, if not the largest,
interdisciplinary research, training and administrative programs
of the University."
The GIS program is a unique partnership between the library, Information
Technology and Communication and six of the nine schools of
the University. The library provides space and staffing; ITC offers
hardware, maintenance and computing support; and ITC and the schools
share software licenses and supply financial support. Four schools
(the College of Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Architecture and
Commerce) offer GIS courses.
"It is a thoroughly unusual partnership," Reed said.
cooperative spirit extends beyond U.Va., too. The University often
shares its expertise with local governments, for example, in exchange
for access to data that may prove useful to University users.
For instance, one locality sought the Geostat Center's help in
determining the relationships between the locations of private
schools and public school districts, in order to determine from
where the private schools were drawing their students.
GIS, we were able to generate this within a couple of minutes,"
said Patrick Yott, director of the center.
"We give back from where we have strength, and they give
to us from where they have strength," Reed said.
center's next focus is developing three-dimensional mapping technology,
Phillips said. Already staffers are working on 3-D maps of the
Grounds, and the city has expressed an interest in extending those
efforts to include West Main Street. Other applications could
depict the line of sight for proposed cellular communications
Poole, an assistant professor of landscape
architecture, is working on a 3-D map that would predict and
model how plant growth rates in wetland areas might be affected
by a number of variables. Though her research focuses mainly on
the Back Bay Fens area of Boston, she hopes the programs she creates
could be applied to other situations in a simpler, straightforward
format that could be used by designers and ordinary citizens,
direction it takes, it appears GIS will make major contributions
in a variety of fields. Already, the old hard-copy maps that once
filled the Geostat Center have been packed away in favor of computerized
this, it's been fun," Reed said. "Everyone who started
it has stayed with it and had a lot of fun."
Geospatial and Statistical Data Center will hold a "GIS
Day" open house Nov. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., marking
the end of National Geography Awareness Week. The center is
located on the west wing of the third floor in Alderman Library.
Information is available at: http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/uvagis/gisday
main center's Alderman location is ideal because of its proximity
to the Government Documents Depository, a rich source of data,
and its visibility to the high volume of traffic that comes
through the library. There are also satellite facilities in
Wilson Hall and the Architecture and Engineering schools.