Geospatial Preservation at Society of American Archivists

Cross-posted from the GeoIQ Blog

ChgoButton_9_24_10.jpgLast Week I participated in a panel with spatial archival experts at the at the Society of American Archivists. Led by Butch Lazorchak of the Library of Congress, and also joined by Steve Morris from GeoMAPP, and John Faundeen from USGS, the panel was a full spectrum discussion of "Geospatial Data Preservation" ranging from the Library of Congress' $10 million acquisition and access to the infamous Waldseemüller 1507 map Universalis Cosmographia of 'America' USGS's environmental conditions for storing historic satellite imagery to GeoMAPP's work in gathering time-stamped state geospatial data. Butch in particular provided an inspiring overview on what's special about Spatial - density of data, representation vs data, and the difficulty in capturing interactivity of more modern digital maps.

The Archivists were a new community to me - people that are passionate about the capturing and storing of data - often until the end of time! But they also vary in their core missions - often diverging on the utility of the captured data and information. Very few seem to be really thinking about archives as a useful resource today and only focusing on the long-time storage and eventual access of the data by some unknown entity. As one member of GeoMAPP said: "All of the Archives are storing this superseded GIS data in dark archives and aren't really providing access to the datasets and don't have web mapping interfaces"

Clearly, we think a bit differently about archiving - choosing to focus foremost on access to data which will result in improved archiving of data, distribution, and analysis on utility and benefit. My presentation Maps as Narratives: Making Spatial Archives Accessible

focused on the concept that maps have been, and are increasingly a vital resource for people in their daily lives and work. By providing users tools to access and use historic and realtime data, we can then capture this data and provide it to other users and data repositories.

Particular to internet feeds, and social media we can't easily predict what data will be useful. Neogeographers create visualizations of twitter streams, photos, foursquare checkin's, friend locations. How do we know which of these are the modern correspondances of tomorrow's US President or Global business leader? Through easy mechanisms for sharing data and maintaining links we can begin tracking this information in it's varied forms, providing better insight and archiving of data for later reuse, whether it is tomorrow or in 100 years.

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Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.