Infrastructure for Mapping Holocaust Ghettos

Authors: Maja Kruse*, University of Maine
Topics: Historical Geography
Keywords: Historical GIS, historical gazetteer, digital infrastructure, Holocaust ghettos
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 16
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


One of the least appreciated aspects of building digital infrastructure for historical GIS projects is the difficulty of locating places and spatial structures in the past. The growing popularity of place-based research in the digital and spatial humanities has highlighted the value of careful, systematic development of base layers, including historical gazetteers and administrative boundaries. This paper describes how the author approached the specific problems of accurately locating approximately 650 Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Eastern Europe and improving the geographical and historical fidelity of administrative boundaries for the period 1938-1945. The ghettos were included in the core dataset provided by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, to the Holocaust Ghettos Project based at the University of Maine. While most locations were adequate for the locator maps for which the data were originally created, they contained too many errors and ambiguities to serve the Ghettos Project’s purposes. Similarly, it was necessary to check the quality of month-by-month historical boundary changes to ensure the quality of the Ghettos Project’s maps. The second half of the paper summarizes the multi-step procedures the author developed to produce more authoritative, reliable infrastructure layers for the use of the larger project and future researchers.

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