London HGIS Calling!

This past week, in preparation for an upcoming assignment, I’ve been trying my hand at some Historical GIS. I spent the weekend going through the the GIS tutorials at the Geospatial Historian which, following up from my earlier post regarding mapping with Google Maps Engine, I highly recommend!

The program of choice is Quantum GIS (QGIS), which is an open-source and free program. The tutorials at the Geospatial Historian walk you through the basics of GIS and provide all of the files you need to produce the desired result. I should note that the tutorials were designed for the previous version of QGIS but I didn’t have any trouble following along with the newer version.

As I’m still waiting on the aerial photos for my assignment, I decided to fiddle around with QGIS so I’m more prepared when I do get my files. With the Western University Library’s digital coverage of London for selected years between 1922 and 1955, I decided to look for a London subject to test. Having visited CFB London (home of Wolseley Barracks) and the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum this summer at the 2013 OMMC Conference, I decided to take a look at how the base changed as a result of the Second World War.

The first step was to find something to use as a base map  that I could then georeference the photos to. Using QGIS’s tool to add existing maps to my project, I used the “WMS-Toporama” map from Natural Resources Canada. Setting up my project to the appropriate coordinate system, I now had to georeference the pictures (assigning photographs with their geographic location).

The end result looks like this:

Wolseley Combo

Looking at the layers individually, you can see the transformation of the site as Canada mobilized and demobilized for the Second World War. I left the road layer on as this is what I primarily used for georeferencing. You’ll notice it isn’t quite perfect but for what I needed, it does the job! Wolseley Barracks is the U-shaped building in the middle of the left hand side of the picture.

Wolseley 1922
Wolseley 1942
Wolseley 1945
Wolseley 1950
Wolseley 1955

Now that I’ve figured out the georeferencing part, it is time to start looking at what else I can do with this program!

Published by Michael O'Hagan

Historian studying German Prisoners of War in Canada during the Second World War

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