Digital Approaches to Cartographic Heritage - 9th International Workshop

3-5 September 2014, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary

By Stuart Dunn, SSI Fellow and Lecturer at the Centre for e-Research, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London

Background:

This was the ninth workshop in the series organised by the International Cartographic Association.

Highlights:

The highlight of this event were the discussions at the end of the first day, following the session on Digitization and Digital Representation.

In particular, there was a fascinating exchange on the challenges of preserving digitised scanned maps and the projections systems into which they have been geo-referenced and the software solutions that will be necessary in the future to keep them available.

It was agreed that the strategy of relying on industrial packages such as ArcGIS is extremely risky, as it devolves the entire strategy for sustaining the software to multi-national corporations, with little or no input from researchers beyond standard market forces.

Event report:

The attendees of the workshop were primarily cartographers and software engineers with an interest in digital mapping from Europe. The UK was rather under-represented; in fact I believe I was only one of only three UK based researchers in attendance. 

There were numerous case studies presented in relation to digital approaches to historical cartography,  including the MAPIRE initiative, the Georeferencer project (which is being used by the British Library and National Library of Scotland to sustain their digital map collections), Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) standards, the Cassini map series and the Imago Poloniae of the Niewodniczanski Collection.

I presented my paper on the Leventis Cyprus Gazetteer project, stressing the importance of the local sustainability infrastructures in Cyprus that will support the project after its end in December 2014. In my introduction, I stressed the role of the SSI in advising the UK’s research community on such matters, and noted that we will be ‘exporting’ our product at the end of the project to a country which does not have such an organization.

In the discussion following my paper, I had questions relating to what we would do to ensure the gazetteer database remains available in such circumstances, and this made me realize that we will need to specify in great detail what software resources will be available in Cyprus, both in the Nicosia University Library and in the Institute of Antiquities, to maintain access and operability over the next five years.

This discussion, and the extremely European focus of the gathering, also suggested to me that it would be useful for the Institute to maintain an inventory of software sustainability resources available in countries other than the UK. 

The specific requirements of the digital cartography community – supporting access to, and continued operation of, images in both vector and raster format, projection systems, digital object collections and gazetteers – would make a good initial focus; and this idea seemed to be relatively well received.

I am thus preparing a brief survey of this community to ask researchers such as those present what resources they have access to; and will ask that it be circulated to the participants. I feel this information would be potentially useful to the Institute, and it might open the door to a more exhaustive study in the future, should SSI wish to pursue it.

As noted in the highlights section above, there was a long discussion on the sustainability of digital resources and archives in this field, and of course this area is indivisible from software sustainability. I am drawing on this discussion in the development of the White Paper I referred to in relation to the Digital Humanities meeting at which I represented SSI in Lausanne earlier this year.