Visualising Urban Geographies

This AHRC funded project in partnership with the National Library of Scotland re-uses existing research data and re-presents it by means of user-friendly mapping tools.

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Developed by Richard Rodger (Principal Investigator), Stuart Nicol, and Chris Fleet of the NLS, the tools have been developed with historians in mind, though the general public will also be able to use them through the NLS website (you need the GoogleEarth plug-in installed on your browser first).

The pilot study uses historical information on Edinburgh before 1940 drawn from the census, property registers, occupational and business addresses in Directories. However the same techniques can be applied to any of the hundreds of NLS’ digitised and geo-referenced maps of Scotland. The results enable local and academic historians to obtain a sense of the spatial distribution of either address based information, or area based data such as at the parish, ward, or district level.

By developing simple steps with providing ‘help’ sheets, the project takes the mystery out of mapping, and sidesteps the complexity of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Thus individuals can create their own historical maps, overlaying the points or area based data upon an appropriate historical map.

International impact

Urban Geographies 3

The project has already achieved considerable impact with presentations at various national and international meetings, as well as with local history groups and individuals. Many students at all level from undergraduate to post-doc have used the VUG mapping tools to inform their research.

The project relies heavily on the partnership with the NLS and the intensive scanning and geo-referencing programme developed there.

Main objectives - prioritised according to the sequence of work:

  1. To develop a set of geo-referenced historical maps of Edinburgh in the 19th century accessible to the public.
  2. To collate, in a tabular or database format, a range of primary-source socio-economic, geographical and statistical data relating to Edinburgh in the 19th century. Existing material obtained from Edinburgh will be used to provide datasets of businesses by type and location, organisations, property values, and institutions.
  3. To develop new graphical and statistical outputs (including dynamic maps, views, graphs, diagrams, reports) relating to the social and economic history of Edinburgh.
  4. To integrate the boundaries, maps and data to produce a set of layers.

Researcher profiles