Information Technology

Cityscapes, An Online Discovery Tool for Urban and Cultural Studies

Cityscapes is a mapping framework for urban and cultural studies that integrates audiovisual media illustrating particular locations. Students studying neighborhoods in a city can use an online map to navigate through its streets and terrain, overlay historical maps and adjust their transparency, and create placemarks that link to photos, sound clips, videos, and textual commentary, creating a type of collaborative presentation.

Cityscapes was initially created in 2009 for the Amherst College class Reinventing Tokyo: The Art, Literature, and Politics of Japan's Modern Capital, and five historical maps from 1680 through 1945 were produced for this project:

http://ats.amherst.edu/tokyodemo/

An animation of the historical maps that can be overlayed on a map of Tokyo by Cityscapes

  

For more information about Cityscapes Tokyo and a video interview with Sam Morse, Professor of Asian Languages and Civilizations, please visit the Faculty Project Showcase - (Re)Inventing Tokyo.

In collaboration with Smith College, Cityscapes was extended in 2010 for use with the classes Pariscape: Imagining Paris in the Twentieth Century and Colloquia in French Studies: Paris, a Multi-Layered City, with another five historical maps from 1582 to 1893:

http://ats.amherst.edu/parisdemo/

Learn more about Smith College Professor Hélène Visentin's use of Cityscapes in this article.

A more general overview of Cityscapes in both of its incarnations can be found in this presentation:

Cityscapes: An Online Discovery Tool for Urban and Cultural Studies
Powerpoint | PDF
UMass ICT Summit, March 2011

Cityscapes makes use of the Amherst Mapping Application, a set of scripts that can be added to a web page to provide an interface for attaching files and textual information to locations on a Google Map. The historical maps were created from scans that were georeferenced using ArcGIS and then turned into Google tiles with the Amherst-written ArcScript GTiler.

For more information about the technical side of Cityscapes, please see these presentations:

Building Historical Maps for Cityscapes, An Online Discovery Tool for Urban and Cultural Studies
Movie | PDF
NEArc Annual Conference, November 2010
GTiler: A Python Script to Generate Google Tiles From a Georeferenced Image 
Movie | PDF

ESRI Developers Meet-Up, December 2010

Development of Cityscapes has received funding from the Five Colleges Digital Humanities program, funded by the Mellon Foundation:

Amherst Mapping Project Expansion
Digitizing Historic Maps