Heritage, Volume 14, Number 4, Fall 1996 Page: 12
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THE TEXAS HISTORIC SITES ATLAS
More than a quarter of a million i
including maps, photograp
to anyone with a computer, modem, and Superhighway access.
In January 1998 cruising the Internet is
going to change. That's when the Texas
Historic Sites Atlas comes online, providing
access to information on more than
250,000 Texas historic sites. While the
Atlas won't provide all the conveniences
of a highway rest stop, it will provide curbside
service for historic site information,
maps, and photos to anyone interested in
Texas historic sites.
But what is the Atlas? Pretty simply, it's
a database being developed to house information
on any (and hopefully all) historic
sites recorded in the state of Texas. The
information in the database comes straight
from paper forms in the files of the Texas
Historical Commission (THC), the University
of Texas, Southern Methodist University,
the City ofLubbock, the East Texas
Forestry Museum, and dozens of other archives,
collections, and repositories around
the state. Once the information about these
sites has been entered into the database,
their locations are calculated and added to
a statewide digital map of historic resources,
which is the Atlas part of this historic sites
project. When it's all said and done, interested
folks will be able to log on to the Atlas
web site, and using maps of the state, select
areas they're interested in, choose the kinds
of sites to display, and receive a map showing
the locations of the historic sites of
interest, as well as information about those
That's the goal.
And like any goal, the real fun (for us) is
getting there. The project started in 1993,
when Dr. Jim Bruseth, of the THC's Division
of Antiquities Protection (DAP), initiated
the process of acquiring funding
through the Texas Department of Transportation
(TxDOT) Intermodal Surface
Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA)
grant program. This program provides grants
in a variety of areas, one of which is historic
preservation and archaeology. As a little
background, state and federal laws provide
that when development takes place on
state or federal property, or is funded by
federal money, the historic and cultural
resources that will be affected by the development
must be taken into account. An
important part of this process is identifying
what historic resources are in the area, and
that's where the Atlas came in. Dr. Bruseth
and the staff at DAP envisioned a system
that would allow planners and researchers
to quickly see what historic resources might
be impacted by a potential development.
Dr. Bruseth took the proposal through the
granting process and received the funding
in the Fall of 1994.
The project got off the ground in February
1995 when the staffs of the Atlas (one,
at that time), DAP, and TxDOT worked
together to develop a final operational plan.
The major difference between the original
plan and the current approach is the use of
the World Wide Web to deliver the information
to the users. Using the Web to
provide access to the information opens up
the Atlas to history buffs, educators, students,
and the rest of the tax-paying public.
It makes for a larger project (in terms of
effort, not expense), but one that we feel
will have a greater reach and is a better use
of tax dollars. With a plan in place we
hired our small staff of four and started
The biggest part of this job is collecting
the data. More than 250,000 historic sites
of various kinds have been identified and
recorded ( in one way or another) throughout
Texas. The information is mostly on
paper forms and photographs in archives
and repositories throughout the state.
Rather than attempting the impossible task
of designing a single set of attributes to
accurately describe anything from an archaeological
site to an historic sawmill,
we're simply collecting what's there. What
that means is that we take each of the paper
forms we find and re-create that form in the
computer, and then hire lots of very fast
typists. This way, the people transcribing
the data (which is the biggest job), simply
type what's on the form, period. There's no
confusion about what information to put
where, and no need to ponder the original
recorder's meaning. By reproducing the
12 HERITAGE -FALL 1996
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Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 14, Number 4, Fall 1996, periodical, Autumn 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45407/m1/12/: accessed November 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.