This past winter semester I was busy with the War of 1812 smartphone app and interactive exhibit design projects, both of which I discussed at length on this blog. For the public history program I had to choose a third course to fullfill my requirements. The program is pretty flexible with electives, and many of my classmates took courses outside the history department such as "Principles in Applied Archeology" or "Land Claims and Primary Historical Research." After exploring some of my options - both within and outside of the history department - I couldn't decide which course to take, nothing had really captured my attention. That's when I started to look into developing my own course with an independent study.
The previous semester I had done some mapping using ArcGIS and enjoyed it more than I had anticipated. I looked into taking a GIS course in the Geography departments, but I had some inside information that because of a change in TAs from the previous year it might not have as much of a historical bent as in the past. So I decided to approach a couple of people I knew in the Geography department (see, it's all about knowing the right people...) about being an instructor for an independent study. I asked the rest of the Public History crew if they were interested in joining me. That's how Douglas McGlynn and I ended up spending our winter semester researching the historic commercial buildings of Old East Village in London, Ontario.
Building upon and updating some research that had been conducted a few years ago in the Geography department, Douglas and I used ArcGIS Online to create an interactive map that describes the architectural changes that took place over time to the commercial corridor of Old East Village. Using city directories, fire insurance plans, historic and modern photographs we tracked how these buildings changed over time, not only in looks but in use as well.
If you would like to learn a bit more about it, head over Old East Village Commercial Corridor project website!