This past week I found an interesting application of GIS technology to the history of the Holocaust in Austria. The website NS-Crimes in Vienna offers visitors a large database of information on Jewish families evicted from their apartments in Vienna in 1938-1939. The database includes information on each evictee, including such things as date of birth, reason for eviction, any deportation information, and so on. As useful as these data are, what is more useful about this site is that all the data is geolocated so that you can click the “map” icon in the database and see exactly where the person you are looking at resided in the city. Or, you can approach the problem the other way and look at an interactive map of the city that includes icons showing how many Jews were evicted from a particular area. By zooming on on these locations down to the street level, one can gain a much more precise understanding of the geography of this one piece of the Holocaust.
This particular project provides no technical information on how the map and database were created. However, the project itself provides a useful model for a simple interface that allows users to explore georeferenced historical information from two different directions (the database or the map).
I expect that I’ll find more and more of these kinds of projects as I begin poking around the web. In intend to assign this one to my Western Civ students this semester to see what they can make of it. I’ll report the results of their investigation later on in the semester.