Dis-covering early dwellings. Re-membering urban places: Historical GIS, Virtual Reality, and Historic Preservation

Authors: Dan Bonenberger*, Eastern Michigan University
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Historical Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: historical GIS, geovisualization, vernacular architecture, deep maps, virtual reality, cultural landscapes, material culture, place, historic preservation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Studio 6, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Dwellings are essential elements of place and key components of cultural landscapes. The earliest surviving dwellings of a community may be identified according to popular regional forms, yet some are obscured by façade alterations or otherwise hidden from public view. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can help researchers discover vernacular architecture based on their depiction in historic maps. By georeferencing early cadastral maps with recent high-resolution orthophotographs, one can identify places where cultural landscape elements of the past strongly correlate with those of the present, revealing most if not all of the oldest dwellings that have survived, including some that have been lost in public memory. In addition to aiding historic architectural surveys and historic preservation efforts, such research can provide geographic insights into early vernacular architecture and dwelling places. A typology of local dwelling types may be used in deep mapping, spatial storytelling, or virtual reconstruction of a street or neighborhood. This paper examines a case study set in Wheeling, (West) Virginia during the 1850s, exploring the challenges of georeferencing and analyzing early city maps, the material and intangible components of early American cities, and their depiction in virtual reality. It evaluates the limitations of the project and potential implications for studies of past place, vernacular architecture, urban historic landscapes, virtual heritage, and historic preservation.

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