Project Update: The Preview is Here!

 Project Updates  Comments Off on Project Update: The Preview is Here!
Sep 302010
 

Things have been a little quiet on the blog recently as we have been busy working away on the AddressingHistory tool.

If you signed up for our Preview then you should have already received an email inviting you to test out AddressingHistory (please get in touch if you asked to join the preview but have not yet heard from us) and you can send us your feedback here. Feedback from our previewers so far has been very positive and we are excited about the full launch – details of which will be coming soon (you can also sign up to be alerted to the launch, or join our mailing list)

In preparation for our launch we would be really interested in hearing how you hope to use AddressingHistory to find out more about your area, your ancestors or historical residents or businesses that might have special meaning for you. Please let us know about your interest in the project and the history of Scotland in the comments below or drop us an email with your story as we’d love to do some special blog postings on these stories and the information available in AddressingHistory. Look out for a great guest blog post from Chris Fleet, of the National Library of Scotland, on the history of Causewayside that we hope will inspire you to share your stories!

Finally, for our Australian readers, there will be an opportunity to grab a flyer for yourself or your local history or genealogy group over the next few weeks as Chris Paton, a Scottish history and genealogy expert who runs the Scottish GENES blog, is taking some of our flyers on his Scottish Research Roadshow in October which includes appearances at the History and Genealogy Expo Sydney 2010.

Remember if you would like further information on the project or would like us to send some posters and flyers to you, your local history group or genealogy community then please get in touch.

Guest Blog Post: Putting Street Directories on the Map

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Sep 212010
 

This week we are delighted to bring you a guest blog post from Chris Fleet, Senior Map Curator at the National Library of Scotland. Chris shares his perspective on the history of mapping, and particularly urban mapping, and how the historical post office directors fit into this history. Chris also looks at how the AddressingHistory tool will enable a new perspective on these valuable historical resources.

Putting Street Directories on the Map

Towns like Edinburgh are well mapped these days – in electronic and paper forms – but it was not always like this.

Flickr Map Showing an Image of the National Library of Scotland Maps Building

Flickr Map Showing an Image of the National Library of Scotland Maps Building

These days, in addition to ubiquitous electronic maps and satellite images from Google, Bing, or Yahoo, a fresh handful of new paper maps are published every year by mainstream publishers such as the Automobile Association, Collins, Geographers A-Z, or Philips, as well as smaller specialist cartographers. This is without even considering the much larger number of publications including maps within them.

So its easy to forget that this modern abundance of urban mapping doesn’t extend back in time much before the 19th century for Edinburgh. The relatively limited earlier mapping of the burgh from the 16th century onwards for small and specialist audiences, dominated by military concerns, was replaced in the later 18th century by a diverse and steadily expanding civilian urban market. Maps appeared in a range of new publications – almanacs, directories, newspapers, travel accounts, books on history and geography, and publications of learned societies – for new literate audiences.  In addition, the steady replacement of copper-plate engraving by lithography during the 19th century allowed maps to be produced and updated much more cheaply.

Lithographic stone by edinburghcityofprint (the Edinburgh City of Print initiative)

Lithographic stone by edinburghcityofprint (the Edinburgh City of Print initiative)

Maps for Post Office Directories grew both in frequency and in the towns they covered as the century progressed, but they were always driven by these commercial and technological constraints. Only Aberdeen, Dundee,  Edinburgh, and Glasgow were regularly mapped before 1850 in Directories. After Ordnance Survey mapped Scotland’s towns at large scales from 1855-1880, many smaller towns – Ayr, Banff, Dumfries, Greenock and Perth – were mapped for Directories, whilst for the larger towns there were fresh new maps every year. Map publishers such as W & AK Johnston and Bartholomew – both based in Edinburgh too – rose to the fore to dominate production. Although plain and utilitarian, Post Office Directory maps are a key information source. Their value in illustrating the dramatic urban expansion and change at this time is heightened when we put them into a longer historical cartographic context. Ordnance Survey may have mapped these towns in more detail, but far less frequently, so that the Directory maps allow a much more precise record of the changing townscape.

Screen capture of the Bartholomew Post Office Plan of Edinburgh and Leith, 1893-4

Part of the Bartholomew Post Office Plan of Edinburgh and Leith, 1893-4 (click the image to view the map on the NLS website)

For me, whilst Post Office Directory maps on paper have always been fascinating and useful for urban history, digitising, geo-referencing and integrating them with the textual content of the Directory brings out a whole new dimension to their value. Geo-referencing the maps allows them to be readily overlaid and compared to later and present day maps – the Visualising Urban Geographies project allows the advantages of this to be appreciated for maps of Edinburgh from 1765 to 1940. Geo-referencing the written content of the Directory, and creating dynamic spatial distributions of people or professions at the touch of a button, opens up a whole new graphical way of visualising the Directory content. By linking the results to a map of the same time period, the distributions can also be understood and appreciated much more readily. The AddressingHistory tool illustrates this new and powerful way of interrogating the Directories cartographically and geographically, and allows an important, but often neglected genre of urban mapping to be given a new relevance today.

Perth 800: A Place in History

 Presentations and Publications  Comments Off on Perth 800: A Place in History
Sep 092010
 

A Place in History, a two-day conference which forms part of a year long event celebration of the 800th anniversary of Perth (see the Perth 800 website for more information), begins tomorrow at Perth Concert Hall. The event will include presentations on the history and development of the city through the ages and AddressingHistory will be represented at an EDINA stand. Addy Pope will be showcasing various EDINA projects and services including Walking Through Time and AddressingHistory.

If you would like to grab a poster or flyers about AddressingHistory to share with your community or organisation, or if you would like a very early peek at the AddressingHistory tool, do stop by the EDINA stand and say “Hello!” to Addy.

Repository Fringe 2010

 Presentations and Publications  Comments Off on Repository Fringe 2010
Sep 092010
 

Members of the AddressingHistory team attended the very enjoyable Repository Fringe 2010 event in Edinburgh last Thursday and Friday with Nicola giving a short “Pecha Kucha” presentation on AddressingHistory to the 90 or so attendees.

The Repository Fringe, which has been running for three years and always takes place around the time of the Edinburgh Festivals, is an informal conference for people who work with all types of repository. We thought that this event would be a fantastic opportunity to share the AddressingHistory project as many of the repositories represented at the event contain academic papers, historical items and research data that discuss or relate to the same time periods and geographic areas as AddressingHistory.

In our Pecha Kucha (a novel super-short presentation of 20 slides shown for 20 second each) we particularly wanted to highlight the fact that AddressingHistory will provide an API (Application Programming Interface) as many of the attendees – including the excellent opening keynote speaker Tony Hirst – already create inventive “mash-ups” of online information and we think there is lots of potential for AddressingHistory to connect into these types of ideas and tools.

We were delighted with the reaction we had to the project and were thrilled to hear lots of very interested and supportive comments and to see lots of enthusiastic Tweets!

You can find out more about the event at the Repository Fringe website (where there is also a live blog) and you can view the AddressingHistory Pecha Kucha by looking in the “O” section of the Videos page there.