MAPPING EDINBURGH'S SOCIAL HISTORY (MESH): A CAPITAL DIGITAL RESOURCE

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of History, Classics and Archaeology

Abstract

The MESH project will provide, and facilitate, new visions of historical space. Based on outstanding documentary and cartographic resources in Edinburgh, the project team will deploy digital technologies to develop new types of historical maps based on social, cultural, political, religious, military, environmental, architectural and economic information. The project will be structured around the emergent themes of the city's spatial evolution, and guided by the operating principles of cartographic projects eg administrative areas, cadastral plans, and jurisdictions.

The Edinburgh Atlas (E-ATLAS) will provide a new digital atlas of Edinburgh structured around six temporal periods: the early city; medieval city c.1300-1550; the early modern city 1550-1680; Enlightenment Edinburgh, 1680-1820; the 'modern' city, c.1820-1914; the capital city, 1914-2000. The changing nature and structure of the city will form the basis to 30 interpretive essays organised around key themes with analytical emphasis on the processes of change in a spatial context. The E-ATLAS will provide a world-leading innovative intellectual product.

The web-based e-atlas provides an internationally innovative research facility. The emphasis will be on customisable maps based on the NLS' 500 digitised Edinburgh maps. As demonstrated by the highly successful and publicly acclaimed open-source tools piloted by the AHRC-funded Visualising Urban Geographies Knolwedge Transfer Project (PI Rodger) (see Attachments for Impact of VUG) users' historical data will be plotted on historical maps appropriate to the period, and saved in personal accounts accessible either by individuals or groups. This customisable web-based delivery will be suitable for researchers at all levels; it will be available to the general public, and by extending the historical frame will have far reaching consequences for scholars and the public.

This provision of an e-atlas facility is a central objective based on a key principle of the project: public accessibility and scholarly additionality (and is consistent with the AHRC 2011-15 strategic emphasis on the Digital Economy and Creative Hubs). By facilitating the publication of newly-created maps of Edinburgh on a variety of topics, the project will demonstrate the utility of spatial analysis for different disciplines. It will assist the development of linkages between acadenic and non-academic users.

The MESH project connects with two other AHRC objectives. First, MESH provides a stimulus to public history by facilitating spatial analysis in a historical setting through the use of user-friendly mapping tools. The project will bring spatial analysis firmly within the grasp of local history societies and voluntary organisations by means of Knowledge Transfer both in a technical environment of web-based mapping, and by providing examples of best practice from experienced historians. Second, the project provides civic authorities, museum curators, and planners with mapping tools (e-atlas) designed which will assist their professional work as they seek to understand the way Scotland's capital evolved.

Public interest in the MESH project is significant and widespread. Representatives of Edinburgh's World Heritage Trust, City Council, RCAHMS, Edinburgh Central Library, and local historical societies have expressed strong support. Graduate and undergraduate students have much to gain from the spatial approach to historical analysis.' In addition to history and geosciences, scholars in several humanities and social sciences disciplines - divinity, literature, archaeology, architecture, criminology - and in biological sciences have expressed considerable interest in the project.

In sum, MESH will stimulate and provide a new research resource (E-ATLAS); advance research capacity (e-atlas); develop an online research facility; and enhance user engagement and inter-institutional collaboration within and beyond Scotland's capital.

Planned Impact

The project will have considerable impact for (i) the general public (ii) the cultural sector of museums and galleries (iii) public sector policy makers, particularly those in local government and (iv) private interests.

(i) General Public. By providing a multi-authored Atlas and a complementary electronic resource with interactive elements, the general public, and local historical societies in particular will be able to explore the historical aspects of their neighbourhoods and communities by generating their own maps on a variety of topics eg population, places of historical interest, architectural features, green space, archaeological sites. This engagement with their locality will enrich communities and contribute to the social capital of the town, village or suburb. Shared community interests have long been favoured by local and central governments as a means of developing place identity and building social responsibility. Websites provide an ideal way of doing this, and the shared knowledge and development of IT skills further contributes to an enrichment of localities. There are active local historical societies throughout the UK who will be beneficiaries. (See Attachments for VUG project outputs and the range of public interests in historical mapping.)

(ii) Cultural Sector - Museums and Galleries. The ability to create maps will enable curators themselves to build in visual and spatial perspectives to their displays eg the location of objects, distribution of activities. Curators will be less dependent on external skills. Since almost all small towns have rich artefacts but too little labour or resources to present these, the ability to produce maps of their locality, and the historical resources in it, will be a considerable advantage.

(iii) Local Government. Where public consultation exercises are involved MESH's historical maps will provide the context for policy-makers and a useful visual tool for 'active citizenship', as envisaged under the recent Localism Act for English and Welsh communities and the Community Empowerment Action Plan in Scotland. Spatial and historical knowledge embeds the citizen in a particular locality, and so enriches civil society. Identifying and mapping listed buildings, considering planning proposals, developments in conservation areas, and regeneration plans are just a few of the ways in which the MESH tools and approaches will inform local agencies.

MESH also offers the educational sector - schools, FE, HE and U3A - real potential to embed projects more deeply in the locality. Such an awareness forms part of the active citizenship agenda (see above). Historical mapping will achieve this in the short term as pilot studies with Edinburgh University undergraduates have demonstrated.

A sense of place - or place-attachment as it is sometimes described - and a better sense of the changes to place, is one of the major outputs of the MESH project.

(iv) Private Interests. Knowing the past and being able to represent it spatially assists commerce. For example, building or engineering firms could locate places of environmental contamination from address-based and mapped historical data, and tender for remediation. Mapping specific business types based on Post Office directories could produce work for a firm. The PI has been working with EDINA to develop the JISC funded project to automate such geo-coding. See http://addressinghistory.blogs.edina.ac.uk/

Historical mapping of the type proposed will enhance the skill base of project staff as well as that of citizens, curators and public officials, and employment options expanded accordingly. Spatial awareness will be increased across a wide range of users; and significant knowledge transfer benefits will accrue from the project.

Overall: thematic and address-based historical mapping will contribute to advances in the sense of place-making and place identity. Some benefits would accrue within 3 years.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Description The project of ongoing but it is already clear that the use of OpenSTreetMap provides a powerful way forward for the analysis of spatial data.
The MESH project has developed a robust methodology that can be applied to towns and cities through the UK - and indeed the world. This standardised set of protocols would give consistent spatial information if followed.
Exploitation Route See above points regarding tools and protocols, and the strong recommendation for the widespread adoption of OpenStreetMap.

The MESH project findings have already been adopted by the local council, a number of businesses, a major public insititution, and other users.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail,Transport
 
Description OpenStreetMap (OSM) of Edinburgh has provided an outstanding resource. It uses a CC-BY-SA licence, and thus avoids the restrictive licensing and copyright conditions imposed by Ordnance Survey, Google and other other proprietary maps. Though only two-thirds through the project, the MESH OSM has been used by the City of Edinburgh Council, Historic Environment Scotland, individual businesses, Cockburn Association (Edinburgh Civic TRust) for its annual Doors Open Programme, Old Edinburgh Club (Edinburgh's History Society), the National Library of Scotland and a number of others to provide an understanding of their memberships/buildings/tranasport routes/businesses.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail,Transport
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services
 
Description Conference paper: 'MESH: Mapping Edinburgh's Social History', State of the Map Scotland Conference 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/State_of_the_Map_Scotland_2015/Day_3#Schedule
 
Description Conference paper: 'MESH: Mapping Edinburgh's Social History', Urban History/Urban Presence, Leeds Beckett University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Lecture: "Overview of spatial, historical, free datas: practices, tools and on-line uploading", LabEx Dynamite 2015 Summer School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://labex-dynamite.com/en/labex-events/summer-schools/summer-school-2015/summer-school-2015-provi...
 
Description Practical work and advice session: 'MESH: Mapping Edinburgh's Social History', Digital Humanities Network, University of Edinburgh 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Public talk: 'Auld Reekie: Slums, Sewers and Shitscapes', Big History Event - Water Aid 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kuZF-ygXw4&feature=youtu.be
 
Description Public talk: 'MESH: Mapping Edinburgh's Social History', Currie and District Local History Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Public talk: 'MESH: Mapping Edinburgh's Social History', Scottish Arts Club 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Public talk: 'Meat, Drink and be Merry in Victorian Edinburgh', Edinburgh Doors Open Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.cockburnassociation.org.uk/uploads/downloads/DoD/Edinburgh%20Doors%20Open%20Day%202015%20...
 
Description Public talk: 'The Foundation and Significance of Edinburgh's Colonies', Colony of Artists 10th Annual Exhibition, Abbeyhill Primary School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.colony-of-artists.com/
 
Description Scottish Association of Geography Teachers Conference 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.sagteach.org/conference.html
 
Description Workshop participation: 'Digital Mapping', Digital Mapping Workshop, University of Leicester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Workshop participation: 'MESH: Mapping Edinburgh's Social History', Workshop of Working Group 9, European Historical Population Samples Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015