Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Biggest Project Undertaken by One Man

I think Brad Thompson has just started one of the biggest projects ever undertaken by just one man. Pastmapper is "a new platform for organizing data using the visual language of online maps to describe the world of the past."

A very early prototype of the project can be viewed at Pastmapper - San Francisco 1853. This is a map of San Francisco in 1853, using geometries from a scan of a US Coast Survey Map. Overlaid on the map is data from the 1852-53 San Francisco city directory.

The result is an interactive map of San Francisco in 1853, with map markers that you can click on to view the people and businesses that were listed as living or based in a particular building in 1853.

Brad says he wants 'to scale (Pastmapper) to every location and every year'. That will obviously prove a huge task. But what an achievement that would be. Imagine if he manages to succeed in his project just for San Francisco. Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to view the history of a building or neighborhood through time. As Brad says it would be amazing to be able to sit in a cafe and look it up on Pastmapper and find at different times in its history it had been a 'saloon, or a speakeasy, or a soda fountain – or all three'.

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