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Visual Exploration of Historical Maps

Authors: Reckziegel, Martin
Wrisley, David Joseph
Hixson, Taylor Wright
Jänicke, Stefan
Keywords: spatial humanities;historical maps;mappamundi;medieval studies;georectification
Issue Date: 4-May-2021
Publisher: Digital Scholarship in the Humanities
Citation: Reckziegel, M., Wrisley, D., Hixson, T. Jänicke, S., 2021. Visual Exploration of Historical Maps. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. Online.
Abstract: Historical maps tell rich stories, and they are also valuable data objects. They vary greatly in size, type, and context, as well as the kinds and density of information they contain. Historical maps are indeed objects that invite close reading, interpretation, and debate. Whereas a variety of environments exist for the annotation, manipulation, and representation of digital maps, or map-derived data, workflows in the spatial digital humanities can be complex and those environments are not often well integrated. In this article, we describe a prototype named ‘MapFolder’ for studying maps, its algorithms for calculating the areal distortion, its visual design for communicating that distortion, along with a scholarly workflow. We blend annotation practices common in the spatial humanities with the workflows of georeferencing in order to be able to visualize how historic cartographic documents compare with the geospatial representations we are familiar with today. The case studies we use to demonstrate ‘MapFolder’ are maps of the medieval period, a body of maps that are less often studied algorithmically and that are usually avoided in typical workflows of georeferencing. MapFolder is by no means a prototype designed to work exclusively with medieval maps, but since maps of this period are only partially geographic in their design, they offer a particularly fruitful opportunity to rethink the algorithmic manipulation of historical depictions of the world. Working with this complex data from the humanities allows us, as well, to propose the use of visualization for critical, comparative spatial analysis in pre-modern studies and beyond.
Appears in Collections:David Wrisley's Collection

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