GIS on the Go

For this past Monday’s Digital History class, we took a field trip to London’s Victoria Park to better understand what Spatial History offers to both historians and the general public. As part of this, we looked at using the free iOS App iGIS.

With the ability to visualize GIS data, including georeferenced images, on a mobile device, iGIS allows users to bring their data into the field. In addition, using your device’s GPS, iGIS can also show and track your location relative to your data. Interested in applying to my own research, I decided to try make my own iGIS map with an aerial photograph of the PoW camp in Riding Mountain National Park from the late 1940s.

In order to have the image overlaid in the correct location, it must be georeferenced using GIS (for more information on this, visit the Geospatial Historian). With this already completed, the next step was to use the program MapTiler to convert the image into a series of tiles that are stitched together to provide one coherent image. For detailed instructions on how to tile your map and then tansfer it to your mobile device, iGIS provides detailed instructions here. One issue I did have was that in using the free version of MapTiler, my original 120MB .tif was too large. As I couldn’t find a way to simply select a section of my image or compress it, I cropped a section of it and re-georeferenced it (if anyone has a better solution, please let me know!). With the smaller file, I converted into a tiled format, zipped it, and put it on my iPhone. Apparently I did everything right as it seems to have worked!

iGIS example
Zoomed out to show the extent. The camp is located in the middle of the image.

As the camp was demolished in 1945 and 1946, one of the problems I face in my interpretive programs is how to get people to understand what the camp looked like in the 1940s. In the past, we have used map handouts and handheld GPS units but I’m intrigued at the possibilities that this app offers in helping visitors visualize the past!

Published by Michael O'Hagan

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

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