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Linking Cultural Resource Databases through GIS

Northeast Region
Cheryl Sams
A goal of the National Park Service (NPS) is to collect baseline cultural resource information for all parks. Each NPS division has been gathering data on a vast array of park resources and maintaining individual databases that contain information on cultural landscapes (CLAIMS), archeological resources (ASMIS), historic structures (LCS), ethnography (ERI), and museum collections (ANCS+). These databases contain extremely valuable information for park managers and planners, but there is no way to access the information easily from a single location.

The Northeast Region of the NPS has embarked on a program to link the information contained in these databases using each feature’s spatial location as the organizing point. As part of that effort, the Cultural Landscapes Program of the Northeast Region contracted with North Carolina State University’s Center for Earth Observation (CEO) to design a geographic information system (GIS) to link the data maintained in each of these separate databases.

The primary obstacle to overcome was the fact that these databases have no digital locational information for many of the features they contain. In some cases, the locations of features are shown on hand-drawn or CAD-produced maps, but they are not georeferenced to a defined coordinate system. Therefore, for this project, CEO developed a methodology to use georeferenced photo-mosaic images, produced by their staff and Skycomp, Inc., and global positioning system technology to determine the spatial location of each feature. Once the spatial locations (x,y coordinates) were determined, CEO could then build the GIS by linking appropriate data from each database to the corresponding features. This GIS allows users to perform queries and analysis based on quantitative and/or qualitative data from any of the databases.
April 08, 2004