Semester of Graduation

Summer 2022


Master of Science (MS)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



As institutional archives digitize their historical map collections and make them publicly available online, new methods for engaging with these materials emerge. Georeferencing the maps transforms their content from static images to dynamic map overlays, and allows for the extraction of geographic data like building footprints or place name coordinates. Many organizations have turned to crowdsourcing to georeference their large holdings, and this thesis approaches crowdsourced georeferencing from the perspective of participatory heritage, taking much inspiration from the idea of the archival commons. To test these ideas, a new extension was created for GeoNode—an open source geospatial content management system—that allows users to georeference map documents in a web browser. Further augmentation facilitated direct ingestion of digital content from the Library of Congress Sanborn Map collection, and a pilot project was conducted to engage the public in georeferencing maps of towns and cities across Louisiana. By the end of the project, 66 participants—from within Louisiana and without—had georeferenced all or a portion of 267 different Sanborn map volumes, creating over 1,500 new layers. These layers combine to create mosaics of 138 different communities across the state, including comprehensive coverage of the city of New Orleans in the years between 1885 and 1893—an especially valuable dataset in its own right. Seamless mosaics will be made from these layers and published via the LSU Atlas data portal for long-term public access. This experience led to new ideas for how to better engage citizens with historical maps of their communities, while the underlying construction of the georeferencing system itself provided insight into how users participated in the work. Ultimately, this thesis lays a conceptual foundation for future efforts of a similar nature, whether they pursue exactly the same technological approach or not.



Committee Chair

Sluyter, Andrew