GEOG 484
Final Project

GEOG 484 Final Project: Overview


Scenario: Creating an Historical Database of the City of Charlottesville, Virginia


A. Goals

This project assesses your working knowledge of the techniques and concepts that are covered in Geography 484: GIS Database Development. A scenario is posed and you are provided with image files of maps from which you will derive the datasets necessary to satisfy the requirements of the project.

B. Background

From the late 19th century through the 1990s, the Sanborn Map Company authored what are arguably the most information-rich maps of urban America. The original intent of the maps was to provide a risk assessment tool to the fire insurance industry. They have come to be an important resource in all kinds of research settings, including urban geography, architectural history and preservation, urban planning, ethnic studies, urban archaeology, genealogy, and many others.

Because of their intended purpose, the most detailed aspect of the maps are the buildings. Looking at a Sanborn map, one can find information on construction materials, number of stories, entry-ways, ownership, street address, general (residential, commercial, public) as well as specific building type (office, warehouse, garage), and sometimes the date of construction. Other kinds of information that can be gleaned from the maps include street names and widths, land elevations, utility lines, parks and railroad tracks.

For this project, I would like you to pretend that you are a consultant competing to receive a contract from the Albemarle Charlotesville (Virginia) Historical Society (ACHS) to create GIS data layers from early 20th-century Sanborn maps of the City of Charlottesville. The ACHS envisions a number of different GIS applications for the Sanborn information:

  • Land use change studies: using layers depicting the city at different snapshots in time, it is possible to analyze changes in the relative proportion and distribution of land use categories through time. (As you will see this will more accurately translate into building use.)
  • Genealogy: digitizing the specific address information contained in the maps will allow the ACHS to pinpoint the locations of persons/businesses listed in historical city directories, and to aid individuals looking for long-lost relatives. In addition the ACHS wants to have in place a street centerline layer that will function with a geocoding service. This can be an aid to genealogical researchers who want approximate locations of many addresses.
  • City visualization: creating animations and 3D views of the city would be an effective means of visualizing the landscape at different points in time and communicating development patterns.

The contract will be awarded to the consultant who can (1) provide the spatial and attribute data necessary for studying land use distribution and change; (2) provide specific street address information, and (3) set up reference data for a geocoding service; and (4) provide building footprint and height information for use in future 3D visualization work. The award will be determined after an evaluation of the consultant's capabilities to: design a database, digitize the required information, and compile the metadata for each candidate's respective test area.

The ACHS envisions having layers that depict the city in 10-year intervals (1900, 1910, 1920, etc., through 1990). There are 30 image files of scanned Sanborn maps for the 1920 interval. Your test area map will be assigned from this group of map images. (You have been provided only four of the maps in the data that you download for the project.)

The project is partitioned into four Parts. You will have four weeks to complete the work and to write the report. I want you to finish one Part per week. You should read through the entire project write-up before beginning.