Seeing History through GIS

Technologies such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Google Earth, and GPS devices  have transformed the way we can visualize places and how they’ve evolved over time. Now  able to visualize a region and the landscape as a whole, historians can digitally recreate any historical event by overlaying the conditions that existed at the time to not only see patterns that weren’t visible before but also understand the circumstances surrounding the event. GIS also enables us to add or remove features or conditions to see the changes that have transpired over time. Recent developments in 3D visualizations also can help historians create a bird’s eye view or a fly-through to mimic an historic event as if you were in the midst of it.

Mapmaking has long been a crucial part of our lives – from medieval times to the 21st century. Initially used to help define, explain, and navigate the lay of the land, maps are now being used to analyze and visualize complex spatial patterns and trends. Consequently, the use of digital maps and visualization has expanded into non-traditional areas such as history, humanities, and modern languages.

Click here to see how digital maps are giving scholars the historical lay of the land.


Author: Nandhini Gulasingam

Nandhini Gulasingam is a Senior Analyst for IT Solutions at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) where she manages GIS, database, web development projects for the SSRC and is developing data visualization techniques for use in the social and behavioral sciences. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Geography where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

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