Written by, Mathew Sisneros
Ever since I was young I have been into all things historic and prehistoric. At an early age I discovered the wonder that was ancient Egypt and from then on I was hooked. In college I pursued anthropology and focused heavily on Biological anthropology and Archaeology. Once into the field of Cultural Resource Management within archaeology, I discovered GIS applications and how heavily they rely on GIS and GPS for geocoding sites and navigation to areas where we might discover sites. It was only logical that I would then follow up my archaeology degree with a GIS certificate to dip into both fields that interest me so very much.
This interest in history, the past, and now mapping these things on a modern landscape brought me to a Next Exit History booth during the 2015 Archaeology Road Show put on by Portland State University. Next Exit history is a web based map application that maps things of historical note based on your current location or which state you click as your selector within the web map embedded on the website. This map application was designed by Historical Research Associates (HRA) and the University of West Florida (UWF). Next Exit History has over 60,000 historical sites, landmarks, parks, etc. mapped on a Google map and you can select these points and be transported to a webpage describing this site, a map showing its location, some photography about the site, and even some audio recordings introducing the site to the viewer.
Here is an example from right here in downtown Portland: http://nextexithistory.com/site/national-historic-landmark-pioneer-courthouse/
You can also create “Backpacks” which are tours that are centered around a theme or particular historical event. It will only pull up the sites and landmarks associated with that theme, as if it is its own separate layer that would be selected in an ArcGIS program. For example here is one centered on the American Southwest:
As an archaeologist, I find this extremely useful in at least introducing the general public to aspects of history and archaeology that may not even enter their sphere of influence on a given day. Also this can help introduce future generations to these sites and help people to understand the importance of history and archaeology. These types of documentation within this map application can also get the public cognizant of that wealth of historical and archaeological data and even demonstrate the need to preserve and conserve these sites from potential damage due to development or climate change. If you are interested in history or archaeology, like I am, then this app is definitely something to consider adding to your smartphone library.