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Mount Vernon Regional GIS Symposium for Historical Resources

Friday, March 3, 2017

9:00 - 9:30AM Arrival / Coffee & Pastries
9:30 - 10:00AM Opening remarks – Introductions
10:00 - 10:30AM The Mount Vernon Viewshed Analysis Tool: the Intersection of Land Conservation and Historic Preservation — Jeff Allenby
10:30 - 11:00AM Effigy Mounds National Monument: Non-Invasive Technologies for Landscape Documentation — Stephanie Austin & Albert LeBeau
11:00 - 11:15AM Break
11:15 - 11:45AM Park Partnerships: Successes and Challenges — Kristine Brunsman & Seth Tinkham
11:45 - 1:00PM Lunch/Networking. A boxed lunch will be provided free of charge.
1:00 - 1:30PM Drones in Preservation: Experience History With New UAV Capabilities — Terry & Brenda Kilby
1:30 - 2:00PM Exploratory Analysis of Historic Document Collections — Dieter Pfoser
2:00 - 2:30PM Closing remarks/adjournment

* Weather permitting, a visit to Mount Vernon’s east lawn will be provided for those wishing to see the area under viewshed protection.

Watch Live

The Mount Vernon Viewshed Analysis Tool: the Intersection of Land Conservation and Historic Preservation

Jeff Allenby, Director of Conservation Technology, The Chesapeake Conservancy

Over the last decade, new technologies and improvements in affordable computing power have allowed for significant advances in the way that researchers and conservation managers are approaching decisions of what land to protect. Publicly available datasets and satellite and aerial imagery have been steadily increasing in resolution and land managers are gaining access to information that allows them to identify, compare, and prioritize potential projects at a parcel scale across entire landscapes. Simultaneously, improvements in the ability to host large quantities of data and analysis tools online are opening new opportunities to share this information with the public to help inform large-landscape conservation planning.

This presentation will highlight a variety of approaches to large landscape conservation in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that are leveraging new technologies to improve their effectiveness and are helping connect conservation organizations to the landscapes in which they are working. A case study using a detailed viewshed analysis to monitor potential development projects across from Mount Vernon will be discussed, as well as the ways that the resulting viewshed application can inform and support collaboration by regional natural and heritage conservation partners.

Effigy Mounds National Monument: Non-Invasive Technologies for Landscape Documentation

Stephanie Austin, Quinn Evans Architects, and Albert LeBeau, National Park Service

Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves a landscape of great cultural value in a beautiful and contemplative natural setting, including over 200 American Indian built mounds in one of the most picturesque sections of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. The mounds are considered sacred by many Americans, especially the culturally associated American Indian tribes. Over time, the monument's resources have been impacted by modern agricultural practices, changing vegetation conditions, and natural processes. The project team is working closely with the National Park Service and tribal representatives to preserve the landscape of Effigy Mounds National Monument and enhance visitors' understanding of the significance of the site through a Cultural Landscape Report / Environmental Assessment (CLR/EA). The project team includes members of affiliated American Indian Tribes as well as landscape architects, archaeologists, an ecologist, and NEPA specialists, who are all contributing to a cohesive and unified visitor experience at the monument. Critical to the success was the tribal consultation that took place to ensure that aboriginal use of the area was taken in to consideration of the Landscape. Also critical to the success of future landscape treatment is accurate documentation of the existing features to avoid impacts and guide preservation of these sensitive resources. This presentation will discuss the use of geographic information systems (GIS) and Lidar in documenting existing and historic conditions, and the role of these non-invasive technologies in locating archaeological resources, developing treatment recommendations, mediating impacts, and protecting resources. The project team analyzed high-resolution Lidar (elevation) scans to develop spatial data layers that document the shape and location of low-definition mounds and other archaeological and cultural resources. The new layers were then integrated with GIS data from the monument as well as state, national, and historic sources to create comprehensive existing conditions and historic landscape documentation, allowing for multiple landscape conditions over time to be overlaid and analyzed for integrity. Treatment recommendations will assist in ensuring the protection of these resources and increase their visibility on the landscape while encouraging appropriate use, education and interpretation.

Park Partnerships: Successes and Challenges

Kristine Brunsman and Seth Tinkham, National Park Service Cultural Resources, Partnerships, and Science Directorate, State, Tribal, and Local Plans & Grants Division

The National Park Service’s (NPS) State, Tribal, and Local Plans & Grants Division (STLPG) annually apportions over $50 million for preservation, requiring buy-in from governmental, private, and non-profit entities. One of the most successful programs to emerge from this preservation partnership is the Certified Local Government (CLG) program. To date, there are nearly 2,000 CLGs in all 50 states, giving each access to financial and technical assistance.

Historic preservation has proven economic, environmental, and social benefits. Studies show that historic districts maintain higher property values, less population decline, and a greater sense of community. Being a CLG demonstrates a community's commitment to preserve, protect, and increase awareness of our unique cultural heritage, making the community better able to compete for new opportunities.

The NPS has a major impact on CLGs and the dynamic partnerships they create, promoting the heritage of their important places. Using GIS, STLPG has demonstrated the vast overlap of CLGs and “gateway communities”. These are urban and rural communities that comprise the gateway regions for the 417 units of the NPS are impacted by these parks and partnerships. Still in progress, STLPG is working to create a tool that will help community leaders, state preservation staff, and the NPS anticipate and mitigate potential conflict or crossover, while creating a more beneficial multi-variate partnership for the future of our heritage resources.

Through case studies, STLPG is working to identify the topics, ideas, and themes most applicable to resource managers at the federal, state, and local levels. This presentation will give attendees, partners, and other stakeholders the opportunity to help us identify how a geospatial tool would function best in helping managers make more informed decisions in developing relationships with local communities, managing resources, and presenting new or changing information. By increasing awareness of the impact of NPS programs outside of parks - valued at about $30 billion, STLPG will demonstrate the vast diversity of where and how the NPS provides assistance to communities all over the country.

Drones in Preservation: Experience History With New UAV Capabilities

Terry Kilby & Belinda Kilby – Founders, Elevated Element

Archeologists and historians may not be the first group that comes to mind when thinking about the latest innovations in technology. However, their need for efficient and timely 3D capture and site documentation are leading them to embrace one of the most cutting edge techs today, Drones. During this talk Terry & Belinda Kilby from the drone services company Elevated Element will discuss how small unmanned aircraft are being used by archeologist and preservations across the region. They will share examples from some of their previous joint efforts with Preservation Maryland and The Maryland State Highway Administration. Demonstrations and examples will be provided for digital 3D site documentation, animated virtual tours and 3D printed reconstructions. In addition, Elevated Element will highlight their latest innovations that they call Augmented Aerial Imaging. These new methods include combining assets from both the virtual and real worlds to create a level of realism that was previously impossible to achieve on a modest budget. These immersive experiences utilizing technologies such as mobile devices and VR headsets are sure to capture the interests of a whole new generation of historians and preservationists.

Exploratory Analysis of Historic Document Collections

Dieter Pfoser, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science George Mason University

The Founders Online Database ( provides access to 176,000 documents that comprise the correspondence and other writings of George Washington and five other founding fathers. At George Mason University, we have developed a visual data exploration framework for unstructured data such as historic document collections. When applied to the Founders Database (provided to us by the University of Virginia) it provides a powerful visual interface (maps, charts, and graphs) to explore these documents using spatial+temporal+thematic+social metadata. We will present how the document collection was ingested and indexed in our framework (geocoding and named-entity extraction) and how the data can be explored in our Web-based platform. The Web application can be made available to interested parties.