HistoGIS supports research projects as an analytical tool, enrichment service, workbench, publishing platform and stable repository for historical geodata.

HistoGIS is a platform developed by the ACDH to collect, create, curate historical geodata, enrich it and give it back to the community. It allows queries about historical political/administrative units, for example: “Region A was part of country B until the year X but then was split between country B and country D”.

In a first phase, the ACDH project team coordinated by Peter Andorfer, focuses on data collection covering Central Europe between 1780 and 1918. The aim is to gather, enrich and create as much data in as detailed and granular a form as possible for this spatial and temporal area. In a next step, HistoGIS will enable anyone to upload already existing datasets and to create new data by vectorising raster images, thus extending the scope of the project. Moreover, HistoGIS invites researchers from various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences to embed HistoGIS into their research projects and workflow, be it as an analytical tool, an enrichment service, a workbench for data creation and curation or a publishing platform and stable repository for data crafted in their own projects.

What makes HistoGIS outstanding is that maps are not only made available online but that data stored within these maps is also made machine readable. It allows users to understand complex data in an easier way and answer questions such as: “Was city A part of country B in the year X or which countries shared a border line between Year Y and Z”? In contrast to other projects such as the “Woldan goes digital Project” or “Mapire” which focus mostly on digitizing and georeferencing maps, HistoGIS goes one step further. It vectorizes so called raster images (geotiffs) i.e. it transforms them into shapefiles, which can describe points, lines, and polygons spatially, thus, making it possible to represent border lines, rivers, or the location and outline of cities. In addition, HistoGIS uses a data model that allows to configure relations between these shapefiles by structuring the data in layers.

The project started from a good position. A wide range of shapefiles for specific time periods was available already in the early phase of the project, starting in May 2018. This allowed the team to begin with data processing immediately. Moreover, the provided datasets also constitute reference points for further data research and data collection and guide future data curation and editing processes.