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Presentation by Don Lafreniere
Links mentioned during the discussion

Discussion of data vectorization, capture and description issues. Comparison of approaches used in different disciplines.

  • Session moderator: Léon Robichaud (Université de Sherbrooke)

Presentation by Don Lafreniere (Western University)

Presentation on constructing a research infrastructure ready to receive spatial data, particularly in an urban environment. The presentation looked at the examples of three cities: London, Ontario; Victoria, BC; and Montreal, Quebec.

Several questions were addressed:

How does one construct a spatial data infrastructure that can import information from different kinds of sources?

Software programs traditionally used to display geospatial data, like Google Earth or Esri basemaps, are unsuitable for this type of project. It is relatively complicated to display several types of environments (urban, industrial, commercial, institutional, social, economic, political, etc.) on a single map over a period of years.

What is the best way to georeference?

Very few historical spatial data are ready to be used for georeferencing. It is not enough to simply insert geographic points on a map; everything must also be positioned within its environmental context to provide a clearer picture of how the space is used.

How can one ensure that a research infrastructure is as flexible as possible vis-à-vis the sources to be integrated and the research questions?

The projects presented incorporated various types of sources (fire insurance maps, census returns, municipal directories, municipal tax rolls, etc.), including qualitative sources such as diaries and petitions. While the research infrastructure constructed meets immediate needs, it was also built to accommodate several types of sources in order to address different research questions for all the types of environments defined. For the moment, the research questions put forth are urban in nature and relate primarily to the 19th century.

What’s next?

If the same exercise is done for other cities, like Toronto, Windsor and Quebec City, it would be preferable to have a national infrastructure that included:

  • adequately geocoded historic reference documents
  • a research infrastructure that can be used to address the greatest possible number of research questions
  • common work tools, such as reference tables (occupation, family name, etc.), and common sources (census returns, civic directories, etc.) available in digital form

Could the 1881 Canadian census provide a point of departure, because it is available for the entire country?

Links mentioned during the discussion