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SAA 2006 Session 103: “X” Marks the Spot: Archiving GIS Databases – Part I

‘X’ Marks the Spot was a fantastic first session for me at the SAA conference. I have had a facination with GIS (Geographic Information Systems) for a long time. I love the layers of information. I love the fact that you can represent information in a way that often makes you realize new things just from seeing it on a map.

Since my write-ups of each panelist is fairly long, I will put each in a separate post.

Helen Wong Smith, from the Kamehameha Schools, started off the panel discussing her work on the Land Legacy Database in her presentation titled “Wahi Kupuna: Digitized Cultural Resources Database with GIS Access”.

Kamehameha Schools (KS) was founded by the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. With approximately 360,000 acres, KS is the largest private landowner in the state of Hawaii. With over $7 billion in assets the K-12 schools subsidize a significant portion of the cost to educate every student (parents pay only 10% of the cost).

KS generates income from residential, commercial and resort leases. In addition to generating income – a lot of the land has a strong cultural connection. Helen was charged with empowering the land management staff to apply 5 values every time there is any type of land transaction: Economic, Educational, Cultural, Environmental and Community. They realized that they had to know about the lands they own. For example, if they take a parcel back from a long lease and they are going to re-lease it, they need to know about the land. Does it have archaelogical sites? Special place to the Hawai’ian people?

Requirements for the GIS enabled system:

  • Find the information
  • Keep it all in one place
  • Ability to export and import from other standard-based databases (MARC, Dublin Core, Open Archives Initiative)
  • Some information is private – not to be shared with public
  • GIS info
  • Digitize all text and images
  • Identify by Tax map keys (TMK)
  • Identify by ‘traditional place name’
  • Identify by ‘common names’ – surfer invented names (her favorites examples are ‘suicides’ and ‘leftovers’)

The final system would enforce the following security:

  • Lowest – material from public repositories i.e the Hawaii State Archives
  • Medium – material for which we’ve acquired the usage rights for limited use
  • Highest – leases and archaeological reports

Currently the Land Legacy Database is only available within the firewall – but eventually the lowest level of security will be made public.
They already had a web GIS portal and needed this new system to hook up to the Web GIS as well and needed to collect and disseminate data, images, audio/visual clips and references in all formats. In addition, the land managers needed easy way to access information from the field, such as lease agreement or archaeological reports (native burials? Location & who they were).

Helen selected Greenstone – open source software (from New Zealand) for the following reasons:

  • open source
  • multilingual (deals with glottals and other issues with spelling in Hawiian language)
  • GNU General Public License
  • Software for building and distributing digital library collections
  • New way to organizing information
  • Publish it on the internet and CD-ROM
  • many ways of access including by Search, Titles and Genres
  • support for audio and video clips (Example – Felix E Grant Collection).

The project started with 60,000 TIF records (can be viewed as JPEGS) – pre-scanned and indexed by another person. Each of these ‘Claim documents’ includes a testimony and a register. It is crucial to reproduce the original primary resources to prevent confusion, such as can occur between place names and people names.

Helen showed an example from another Greenstone database of newspaper articles published in a new Hawaiian journal. It was displayed in 3 columns, one each for:

  • original hawaiian language newspaper as published
  • the text including the diacriticals
  • English translation

OCR would be a major challenge with these documents – so it isn’t being used.

Helen worked with programmers in New Zealand to do the customizations needed (such as GIS integration) after loosing the services of the IT department. She has been told that she made more progress working with the folks from New Zealand than she would have with IT!

The screen shots were fun – they showed examples of how the Land Legacy Database data uses GIS to display layers on maps of Hawaii including outlines of TMKs or areas with ‘traditional names’. One can access the Land Legacy Database by clicking on a location on the map and selecting Land Legacy Database to get to records.

The Land Legacy Database was envisioned as a tool to compile diverse resources regarding the Schools’ lands to support decision making i.e. as the location and destruction of cultural sites. Its evolution includes:

  • inclusion of internal and external records including reports conducted for and by the Schools in the past 121 years
  • a platform providing access to staff, faculty and students across the islands
  • sharing server space with the Education Division

Helen is only supposed to spend 20% of her time on this project! Her progress is amazing.

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Posted in access, digitization, GIS, open source, SAA2006