Using Historical Spatial Data Infrastructures as a Tool for Hazard Assessment in Urban Industrial Archaeology

Authors: Dan Trepal*, Michigan Technological University, Don Lafreniere, Michigan Technological University
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Historical Geography, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: Industrial Archaeology, GIS, Spatial Data Infrastructures, Urban
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Balcony B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

While archaeologists have long used computational approaches to reconstruct ancient environments, they have only just begun to recognize the potential of spatial history approaches for visualizing and exploring more recent urban contexts. We combine the Historical Spatial Data Infrastructure (HSDI) concept developed within spatial history with basic elements of archaeological predictive modeling to demonstrate a novel type of GIS-based industrial archaeology (IA) landscape model for identifying the persistence of historically-generated industrial hazards in postindustrial cities. This big data-based approach draws on both historical and modern spatial big data to identify probable IA site locations over a wide area; to project the likely presence of specific persistent historical pollutant classes; and to determine accessibility for archaeological fieldwork and environmental testing. This serves to usefully reveal the histories of numerous specific contemporary pollution hazards, and in doing so augment traditional archaeological site prospection and analysis. By using a wide variety of historical sources including maps, business directories, and census data, we locate specific industrial processes (such as tin plating or tar distillation) within industrial operations with great spatial and temporal precision. The result is a highly detailed digital model of over a century of changing urban industrial activities across the entirety of the city of London, Ontario. Our results demonstrate how applying HSDI methodologies to the archaeological study of postindustrial urban landscapes may contribute to more effective cultural resource management practice. This in turn links archaeology more directly to ongoing discussions of urban heritage, redevelopment, and environmental sustainability efforts in postindustrial cities.

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