This event spans multiple dates:
25 Oct 2021 15:00 to 16:30 Online event
2 Nov 2021 15:00 to 16:30 Online event
9 Nov 2021 15:00 to 16:30 Online event


Guided Project: GIS and digitisation of historical maps for research
Dr Alexis Litvine (History, Cambridge Digital Humanities).
Places are limited and participants must complete this form in order to participate in addition to booking online. We will write and confirm your participation by email. Bookings will remain open until 10 am, Wednesday 20 October; however, participants are encouraged to apply early as demand is likely to be high, and we will not be able to guarantee that your ArcGIS Online account will be activated for the first session.
This CDH Guided Project series will offer an overview of GIS techniques applied to digitising historical material, from basic manual digitisation to using platforms for crowd-sourced digitisation. It will introduce GIS best practices and terminology and enable participants to design and launch their own projects. Each session will offer a 20-minute presentation, followed by 10 minutes of Q&A and one hour of practice, using ArcGIS Online and a range of other GIS solutions. The teaching will be delivered by a team composed of a geospatial analyst, an architect and a historian, giving participants from all fields a broad range of views and expertise to draw on.
As part of this project, each participant will have an ArcGIS online account created, which can be retained as long as affiliated with the University. Thus allowing the creation of further mapping projects afterwards.
Participation in this guided project will also contribute to an ongoing research project led by Dr Alexis Litvine and Dr Isabelle Séguy (, which is (among other things) reconstructing historical transport networks for France. During the sessions, participants will help digitise nineteenth-century French roads using military maps. The work will ultimately be part of a journey planner (aka a “Google Maps”) of the past for France.
Applications are invited from early career researchers and others at the University of Cambridge to join this project for four online sessions during the Guided Project phase in Oct-November. The project concludes with a live “mapathon” session on International GIS day, i.e. November 17. During this event, participants will all meet (in person preferably but online will be possible) for a friendly but competitive digitisation challenge against participants in a similar guided project held in France — Pizza and refreshments will be provided.
Participants will need to commit to joining the live sessions and to set aside at least 3-4 hours of individual digitisation work. Participation in the final “mapathon” (online or in-person) is also expected, but no prior GIS knowledge is required. 
The course will be delivered online, with live sessions taking place on Zoom. The final event will be offered both online and in-person.
As the course will use primarily cloud-based computing (even for high-performance computing applications), no specialist computing hardware or specific operating system or software is necessary. However, if you only have a trackpad on your computer, we HIGHLY encourage you to borrow a mouse from a friend for this project; digitising old maps with a trackpad is very painful!
Time commitment and session dates
Guided Project session 1: 25 October, 3-4.30pm (Introduction to GIS, setting up an account and basic digitisation skills)
Guided Project session 3: 2 November, 3-4.30pm (Reviewing digitisation and validation strategy, presentation of COVADEO)
Guided Project session 3: 9 November, 3-4.30pm (Crowd-sourcing digitisation, presentation of Open Historical Maps)
Guided Project session 4 “mapathon”: 17 November,  4-6pm
Early career researchers (PhD students and postdocs) at the University of Cambridge have priority for this Guided Project. However, other University of Cambridge staff and graduate students are also welcome to apply. 

Cambridge Digital Humanities

Tel: +44 1223 766886