Historical spatiotemporal datasets are important for a variety of studies such as cancer and environmental epidemiology, urbanization, and landscape ecology. However, existing data sources typically contain only contemporary datasets. Historical maps hold a great deal of detailed geographic information at various times in the past. Yet, finding relevant maps is difficult and the map content are not machine readable. I envision a map processing, modeling, linking, and publishing framework that allows querying historical map collections as a unified and structured spatiotemporal source in which individual geographic phenomena (extracted from maps) are modeled with semantic descriptions and linked to other data sources (e.g., DBpedia). This framework will make it possible to efficiently study historical spatiotemporal datasets on a large scale. Realizing such a framework poses significant research challenges in multiple fields in computer science including digital map processing, data integration, and the Semantic Web technologies, and other disciplines such as spatial, earth, social, and health sciences. Tackling these challenges will not only advance research in computer science but also present a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary research.
For his paper Querying Historical Maps as a Unified, Structured, and Linked Spatiotemporal Source, he won the first place prize at the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) sponsored Blue Sky Ideas Track Competition at the ACM SIGSPATIAL International Conference on Advances in Geographic Information Systems 2015 (SIGSPATIAL 2015) in Seattle, Washington.
The Maps in the Crowd-project of Leiden University Libraries
Leiden University Libraries holds a vast collection of c. 100,000 maps and 3,500 atlases. To make these map better accessible and searchable, the georeferencing of the map collection has started. Moreover, georeferenced maps can be used and analysed further in Geographical Information Systems. With the well-known Georeferencer application of Klokan Technologies, everyone who is interested could contribute to this project online. After a pilot project in 2015, consisting of c. 400 18th century manuscript charts of the Van Keulen collection, almost 7,000 Dutch colonial maps of the KITLV collection (Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies) were made available for georeferencing. In eight months' time all maps were georeferenced by the crowd. At this moment a third phase of Maps in the Crowd is in preparation, with c. 1,000 maps of the Caribbean in general and the Netherlands Antilles in particular.
This talk will focus on the crowdsourcing aspects of the project. How did we reach people who were interested to contribute? What kind of PR activities did we develop to bring the project to the attention? Who are the people who participated? And how did we kept them satisfied? The project cannot be dissociated from the broader digital revolution in the academic and librarian world. Leiden University Libraries is developing a Center for Digital Scholarship to assist researchers and students in all aspects of digital scholarship. At the same time the library is creating a new repository infrastructure to manage and display its digital and digitised collections. Maps in the Crowd perfectly fits in this larger development.