Landscapes, memories and cultural practices: a GIS / GPS digital heritage mapping networkEdit

Final workshop, Friday 21st May, Tarn Room (GO1), School of Architecture, University of Liverpool

Introductions and welcome: Julia Hallam

Developments on Main Street, North Carolina: Robert C. Allen

Brief notes - Robert C Allen's presentation (May 2010)

Updates on developments at the Museum of Liverpool

Brief notes - Julia Bryan and Clare Ahmad's presentations (May 2010)

Discussion following the above presentations

Les recommended a website called “Geograph” ( which contains images uploaded by people, geo-referenced to specific locations and including written descriptions.

Julia Hallam asked Bobby if he was making use of Flickr in his projects.

Bobby advised that he planned to, and that he may build audio in (so far he had made use of YouTube videos etc).

Robert Kronenberg asked the museum staff how important it was that the data was accurate, and how this was monitored.

Clare advised that accuracy was very important, that it was made clear to people contributing data that it would be checked, might not all be used etc. The museum has also been selective in the societies approached; for example, they have an on-going relationship with Merseyside Archaeological Society.

Julia Bryan suggested that moving forward they needed to consider how they would demonstrate that some of the information is user-generated, whilst other information is museum authored.

'David'Cooper referred to the interesting idea of imagined geographies, misremembering etc, whilst Zelda agreed but pointed out that it was the museum’s responsibility to tread carefully.

Rob Philpott acknowledged that there was a need to accept and deal with misapprehensions and myths, but also to address and verify facts where possible.

Short presentations by other members of the participation and engagement group

Sara Cohen

Brief notes - Sara Cohen's presentation (May 2010)

Ryan Shand

Brief notes - Ryan Shand's presentation (May 2010)

Tim Brunsden

Brief notes - Tim Brunsden's presentation (May 2010)

Round table discussion

Julia Bryan made reference to “A Story of Smithdown Road” that the museums had been involved in which was similar to some of Re-Dock’s work (see

Julia Hallamto the museums: How have you found the collaborative project?

Zelda:Collaboration has been an essential part of the way we work for about a decade.

Julia Hallam:The former museum had interesting exhibits, but seemed to be more about the end result.

Julia Bryan:The new museum is designed with a more flexible infrastructure, which is important to enable the museum to lend itself to community involvement and engagement.

Peter: A prevalent theme in the presentations seems to be a growing interest in community engagement, but is old map data always readily accessible?

Ian: I’ve been involved in a project based on Belfast, using Irish Census Data which is readily available; I plan to link records to houses and link this to associate data (memoirs etc).

Julia Hallam to museums: Have you done any census data work?

Julia Bryan:Not on a grand scale, but it’s an interesting thought.

Julia Hallam to Bobby: Are people doing similar sorts of things in North Carolina?

Bobby: The University has just hired computing experts from San Diego. They have made use of data of financial assessments that were carried out on certain areas including undesirable groups- this has been plotted onto a map coloured by race. Green areas = good chance of getting a mortgage. Richard from San Diego has digitised and geo-referenced these maps. Google has also been used to open up this data and make it searchable for various purposes. The university has also started a new group bringing together people from various disciplines to carry out projects on digital history. Another notable project is one that has been carried out at the University of Sydney called “Digital Harlem”; this made use of district attorney records, extracted individuals cited, and geo-referenced them.

Julia Hallam: It would be useful if people could add information and links onto the wiki about other projects etc.

Les: The idea of the map as a display platform is very useful.

Julia Hallam: It’s interesting, looking at the Sanborn maps, at cities developing etc and then sites disappearing.

Robert Kronenberg:Maps provide a firm and flexible framework to which information can be attached; people know and understand maps’ abstract conventions.

Les: Whilst people are doing isolated projects, maps form the potential for a common platform.

Robert Kronenberg: The idea of people developing their own maps (as demonstrated by Sarah and Tim) is fascinating.

Sara: There are some interesting journey maps amongst the music maps (e.g. mental mapping); with people drawing their journeys. It would be interesting to find out how further journey maps could be sourced and connected.

Les: There’s an interesting site-specific aspect; the more it’s pushed, the more the map and territory are blended, finding a way to engage others in those environments.

Julia Hallam: In terms of Liverpool’s varied communities, there are rich ways that the map can be useful.

Peter: With regard to other aspects of Liverpool, many of the old inner city areas aren’t there now (e.g. the Wallasey tower, old housing knocked down). Maps can be used to re-establish people’s memories; for example, individuals that made things happen are often more iconic than the buildings themselves.

Joanne: It’s important to think about people moving and journeying through maps; the practice of movement through cities; how you can combine spatial locations of maps whilst contextualising how we move through them.

Bobby: referred to the significance of social networking; individuals connected to organisations in interesting ways e.g. blacks belonged to fraternal organisations in earlier times in America so that they could get insurance, whilst churches performed social roles for African Americans. Points such as this produce very interesting social maps.

Developments in Mapping the Lakes: Ian Gregory

Brief notes - Ian Gregory's presentation (May 2010)

Questions following Ian’s presentation

Chris: An interesting point in relation to your project is that Twitter is now geo-referenced.

Ian:Yes and so is Wikipedia; user-generated content has only just started but is now expanding. Tweets are interesting to again see where people are interested in going.

'GIS and Deep Memory: Outline of a Rationale and Methodology': Les Roberts

Brief notes - Les Roberts' presentation (May 2010)

Chris Speed: Developments in Walking through Time

Brief notes - Chris Speed's presentation (May 2010)

David Cooper: Literary GIS

Brief notes - David Cooper's presentation (May 2010)

Gary Priestnall

Brief notes - Gary Priestnall's presentation (May 2010)

Round table discussion / future possibilities and directions

Julia Hallam: Highlighted the significance of questions of the scale of future projects and what these might be. The museums have expressed an interest in becoming a future partner and there might be potential for another AHRC/EPSRC bid.

Ian:The network has proved there is a lot of relevant content to work with, but Computer Science departments in the past have moved on after proving the technical capacities rather than expanding the richness of content.

Gary:A Horizon project was 99% computer scientists, but the broader issues and richness of information haven’t yet been engaged with.

Ian: Advised He has had similar experiences e.g. electronic tour guides being dismissed as “out of fashion”, lack of interest from IT departments. Ian suggested that another issue is the audience – who to deliver to, what for, use of mobile apps or a different platform?

Gary: Highlighted the social acceptability issue of pointing your phone up – people would assume you were taking a photograph.

Joanne agreed and told a story about a student who was taken to a police station.

Robert Kronenberg: Another perspective might be that the sense of application data as a key area to pursue becomes dangerous e.g. related to lazy people who can’t be bothered to carry a book. Interestingly, can take existing resources and bring them together to develop new knowledge.

Rob Philpott: The issue seems to be that there is a huge wealth of material available, but that we need to find the most appropriate methods to capture and validate them.

Joanne:It is interesting the way that Bobby’s stuff is open to use; people can put their own stories onto projects.

Robert Kronenberg: Contribution is the most exciting part of public interaction.

Gary: Agreed. The massive challenge is making the best use of all the information, but issues equally valid/relevant to user-generated content is the tendency to potentially reduce the usefulness of the information.

Robert Kronenberg: Tagging and relating images (as Chris spoke about) adds an interesting layer to knowledge.

Chris: Narratives are often set up in museums, but need to understand how a poem can become a coordinate. Often coordinates can allow us to contest grand narratives and systems. The contemporary coordinate system is the URL. Sometimes we need narratives as “selling points” (e.g. a Satnav for History – see February notes) but this isn’t meant to be taken literally.

Ian:There’s an issue of how you put geographical content across to an audience, and a risk of a very superficial interactive. The opposite might be a guided narrative, leading someone through – author vs. reader. You need to find a happy medium once you’ve established who your audience is.

Gary: Google Earth, for example, contains loads of information, but making connections is the most challenging part.

Tim: There’s also the issue that user-generated information is not always fact, and that we have to differentiate between the two.

Robert Kronenberg: There’s also a concern about using Youtube as you lose your copyright.

Sara: I used Youtube for my project and had to email people directly. In a previous project we couldn’t use a lot of the data because of issues such as broadcast music in the background; the issue of copyright was something we found most difficult and time consuming.

Julia Hallam:That’s something we avoided by working with amateur filmmakers.

I feel that GIS is excellent for its ability to attach different types of information to create a more engaged kind of database. For a pilot project, it might be best to start with that, across a number of different art forms. There are a range of people in the city who could contribute. GIS at the moment seems to be something most of us are comfortable with; GPS could perhaps be looked at to absorb certain aspects of the GIS.

Robert Kronenberg: I worked on a previous project, “City in the Palm of Your Hand”, for five years, but have never been able to get it funded, even during the 2008 Liverpool Capital of Culture.

Julia Hallam: I think we need to go away and think about research questions for a collective project.

Robert C Allen: We might want to consider ways in which our network could be converted into a non-profit consulting group, and consider the toolset and potential for creating tools as part of a consulting group. e.g. Is there a way of developing an OCR programme that would read map labels?

Julia Hallam: So, we should start thinking about ideas for a further pilot next, bearing Bobby’s notion in mind of what we could be.

Chris:In terms of users, we might want to consider the significance of applying for a heritage grant, for example.

Julia Hallam: David’s resource about The Reader is also interesting. The GIS toll has given us new ways of looking at things as humanities academics.

Les: People are approaching GIS in different ways; being able to provide some skills-based resource seems key as Bobby suggested.

Julia Hallam: Suggested that another meeting might potentially be held in mid-September to discuss further ideas about a pilot project.