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University of Waterloo's Historical Air Photo Digitization Project

Author(s): Eva Dodsworth

Journal: Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research
ISSN 1911-9593

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2008;
Original page

The University of Waterloo Map Library is a cartographic and GIS academic resource centre to academics, community organizations and interested members of the local community. With a collection of over 100,000 maps, 49,000 air photos and being the campus’ hub for geospatial data, the library is frequented by many user groups and individuals – serving a variety of interests and purposes. Until most recently, many of these users were able to only access the collection in person, during library hours. Now, one of the library’s most popular paper collection used by the local community, the historical aerial photographs, have become available online for users to view and download from their home and business computers. The Map Library’s air photo collection includes stereoscopic images of the Region of Waterloo taken as early as 1930 to as recent as 1995. The air photos are widely used by students, business contractors, history buffs and home owners who like to study the air photos for land cover, property information, feature identification and changes in these over time. Due to several access limitations, the Map Library wanted to provide the community with easier access, available 24/7 and remotely from the internet. The Map Library scanned, digitized, and georeferenced photos from the 1930s and 1940s and uploaded them to a website that provides easy access for viewing and downloading the imagery. Using GIS technology, the air photos were digitized with geographical coordinate tags for use in GIS software programs including online mapping applications such as Google Earth (GE). By creating and offering downloadable georeferenced images compatible with popular mapping tools, the air photos have gained significant popularity and utilization by not only regular library users but by community groups, organizations and corporations who have never used library resources in the past. The integration of modern technology with traditional paper mapping has proven to be both methods of preservation and increased varying utilization.
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