Mapping & GIS

There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to map things, ArcGIS, QGIS, Google Earth, and History Pin are a few. By “map,” I mean mark geographical locations and/or associated data with locations. The mark(s) can be points (e.g., pins) that just say, “this is x location,” points that contain detailed information and images, or they can be data layers. Adding data layers to a map is part of what is known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Not all mapping is GIS. Adding a point to a Google Earth map, for example, is not GIS. Adding a data layer and using that data layer to perform an analysis is.

What is GIS?

GIS is the combination of geospatial software (e.g., ArcGIS) and tools (e.g., GPS), geospatial data, and human applied methods and analysis. This video from provides a good overview of the technical aspects of GIS.

The following video provides an overview of the history, uses, and ubiquity of GIS and other geospatial technologies. Notice its tone and style. It’s very inspirational, and rightfully so in many ways, but consider some of the possible issues, e.g., privacy:

So how can GIS be used in the humanities? The following video provides an example. It discusses the Geography of the Post, a DH project that uses GIS to study the integration of the American West through a historical lens.

Go to the ArcGIS exercise.