Skip to main content

Mount Vernon Regional GIS Symposium for Historical Resources, Winter 2015

February 19, 2015

The recording of the Symposium has been archived and is now available. Please be aware it is broken into four separate videos. Below is contact information for each presenter, as well as links to slides, videos, and other relevant material. Abstracts for each presentation are also included.

Watch livestream

Protecting the James River Viewshed using GIS & 3D Visualizations

Sharee Williamson, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Brady Hoak, ESRI

Earlier this year the National Trust named the James River at Jamestown to our list of National Treasures deserving protection. The threat facing the James River is Dominion Virginia Power’s plans to build a high voltage transmission line that would be visible from Jamestown Island, the Colonial Parkway, and other resources located in the heart of Virginia’s Historic Triangle.

Additionally, the James River itself is part of the first congressionally designated national water trail -- the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail -- which traces the history of the Chesapeake from the 17th century.

With the theory that a picture is worth a thousand words, the National Trust put together a story map using GIS technology to help the public better understand and visualize the threat posed by the transmission line. The National Trust also developed a 3D model that depicts the view of the transmission towers from different vantage points. This model was developed using LiDAR and tree cover data produced by the federal government.

National Trust Blog Post about the James River viewshed

PowerPoint slides used in the presentation

YouTube video of 3D recreation

Mapping Segregation: How Racially Restricted Housing Shaped Washington DC, 1900-1948

Sarah Shoenfeld & Mara Cherkasky, Prologue DC

Brian Kraft, JMT Technology Group

Mapping Segregation is a historical research and mapping project that will result in a layered, dynamic, interactive online map showing the historic segregation of Washington DC’s housing, schools, recreational facilities, and other public venues. This long-term project is a collaboration among historians Sarah Shoenfeld and Mara Cherkasky of Prologue DC and GIS specialist Brian Kraft of JMT Technology Group. A DC Humanities Council grant is funding stipends for UDC student interns in the project’s first year, during which we are focusing primarily on two neighborhoods: Pleasant Plains and Bloomingdale.

The rise of housing segregation during the first half of the 20th century coincided with a transformative period in the city’s history. The exodus of African Americans from the South, combined with employment opportunities in DC, resulted in massive population growth here. Racially restrictive covenants served to confine DC’s rapidly expanding black population to substandard, overcrowded areas and to preserve racial homogeneity in neighborhoods marketed to whites.

The maps we’ve developed thus far display the location of properties with restrictive covenants in their deeds combined with demographic data showing the relationship between covenants and the shifting racial identity of individual blocks and whole neighborhoods. In addition, we’ve mapped the location of houses that were the subject of covenant-related legal battles in the 1920s-1940s, revealing that most of these cases arose near racial dividing lines. We are currently developing an interactive map that tells the stories behind these cases, and will have it completed for the Mt. Vernon symposium.

Website with more info on the segregation project

Tracing the General's Way: GIS in the Reconstruction of MD 178's Original Track

W. Brett Arnold & Anastasia Poulos, Anne Arundel County

Over the last year, archaeologists and GIS analysts with Anne Arundel County and the Maryland State Highway Administration have been engaged in an intensive cultural resources survey of the Generals Highway (MD 178) corridor. One of the project’s stated goals is to identify the path the road took before it was widened and straightened in 1940, as part of an effort to give context to other properties surveyed in the project area by reconstructing the eighteenth and nineteenth century cultural landscape.

We have worked toward fulfilling this goal by using GIS to compare georeferenced historic maps to modern parcel data, topographic data, aerial photography, LIDAR, and IR imagery. This resulted in a preliminary reconstruction of the road bed, which will later be identified on the ground and traced with mobile-based GPS tools in an attempt to assess the viability of using modern mobile devices for this type of cultural landscape reconstruction. The end result of this project will be added to a GIS research tool that details the cultural resources landscape of the corridor over time—including the historic route the road took in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—and will be available to archaeologists and other researchers with an interest in the Generals Highway region.

PowerPoint slides used in the presentation

Future of Historic Resource Surveying: Mobile Data Collection Applications

Deidre McCarthy & Megan Brown, National Park Service

Michele Oaks & Mary C. Collins, City of Alexandria

The National Park Service, in partnership with the City of Alexandria, is seeking to preserve America’s historic and cultural places by developing a mobile historic resource survey application to streamline the time-consuming process of traditional field collection surveys.

Traditional surveys require significant man-hours in the field collecting data, utilizing methods such as paper survey forms, hand drawn maps, and 35 mm cameras. These surveys are no longer feasible for our communities, particularly when faced with limited funding and many resources in need of rapid evaluation and re-evaluation. Utilizing Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and handheld devices, the National Park Service, with its partners are working to develop an application to streamline this workflow, reduce survey man-hours and easily share information with other agencies and the public. After the multi-phased testing is complete, the application will be made available as a complementary data collection tool to historic preservation offices around the country.

This presentation will be a preview of future of historic resource survey tools. Attendees will have the chance to see first-hand how the National Park Service and its partners have leveraged the power of GIS and mobile technology to create an application that is user-friendly and intuitive.

PowerPoint slides used in the presentation

Visualizing Antebellum Richmond by Constructing a Historical 3D City

Justin Madron, University of Richmond Digital Scholarship Lab

Richmond was a very different place a decade before the Civil War than it is today. This presents a number of challenges in how to visualize a city over 150 years later, while capturing the essence of the place. Historical data is often sparse—making it difficult to construct a historical 3D city. The majority of the data came from digitizing building footprints derived from historical maps, which provided the base data. Using programming rules created in CityEngine, buildings were populated from these footprints and rendered instantly. We used geovisualization techniques to explore the role Richmond, Virginia played during the slave trade by following the travels of Eyre Crow--visually identifying where his paintings and engravings took place. Using procedural modeling techniques we were able to capture mid-19th-century urban architectural styles and immerse the viewers in historic Richmond.

Blog post highlighting the project

Storymap showing Richmond Then & Now

Building a Historic Building Information Model at Mount Vernon

Eric Benson, MVLA

Robert Fink, Quinn Evans Architects

Patrick Gahagan, ESRI

In 1860, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association saved the home of George Washington and since that time has worked to better our understanding of plantation life at Washington’s Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon’s original construction and continued preservation have produced a vast archive of records, beginning with Washington’s personal papers and continuing with research and restoration documentation generated by ongoing conservation work.

To organize this large amount of data, Mount Vernon’s Department of Historic Preservation has created a Historic Building Information Model (HBIM) of the mansion. The HBIM is a purpose-built database accessed through a highly accurate, 3-D model. The model was created through a combination of laser scanning and hand rendering in the Autodesk program Revit. Data in various media are attached to individual elements - framing members, electrical system, decorative features, even patches in plaster - and are accessed through ‘entering’ the model and clicking on the desired element. The model can be manipulated to show sections or plans, and parts, such as wall surfaces, can be hidden to reveal framing or infrastructure within the walls. The HBIM is not static; it will be constantly updated to reflect the most current understanding of the building. The first test of this new technology is underway as Mount Vernon begins to upgrade its fire suppression system, with the model providing the framework for the design of the system components, and the installation allowing documentation of normally inaccessible spaces for incorporation into the HBIM.

Another advantage of the HBIM is its compatibility with GIS technology. Mount Vernon has been collaborating with ESRI, an industry leader in GIS, to integrate the HBIM database with the estate's existing GIS data of the surrounding landscape. By importing both the 3-D model and associated tabular data into ESRI's ArcGIS Pro and CityEngine softwares, the buildings can be viewed within a 3-D representation of the entire estate. This integration goes far beyond the visual applications; it provides seamless querying and analysis of all the datasets involved, and allows users to access information about buildings or landscape elements, all while viewing them in their proper spatial relationship to each other. This comprehensive system will give our staff unprecedented management of our historic resources and the attendant modern infrastructure, and will eventually provide web-based visitors an unparalleled window into the history of Mount Vernon.

Video of presentation given at the ESRI Federal User Conference

PowerPoint slides used in the presentation