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Learning from Oregon Trail Effort

posted Apr 17, 2010, 6:34 AM by Ron Hall
In early March, I dropped in on Dave Welch when I was in Seattle presenting at a conference. Dave told me about the history of the Oregon Trail mapping program, dating back to the establishment of the National Trail legislation (early 1970's - location was simply drawn on a large scale map for legislative reasons)) and the subsequent need to document the actual location of the trail. Most of the work has been done by volunteers working from an approved set of standards. Only recently has the technology been available to develop and share this data on the web. There are issues with sharing the data with the general public. Some GPS data work has been done. The software that the association uses to collect data and share with the NPS is proprietary (and expensive) Dave was interested in seeing what Google Earth could offer. 

I explained to Dave that the free version of Google Earth was a great tool for projects like this. Members could use it in their data collection process (it imports various data from GPS units). They could also use it to share data amongst themselves and with the general public at large. It can perform certain analytic tasks that might be helpful in their preservation efforts. The pro version is available for free (1 year grant) to qualified not for profits. The pro version has more analytic tools and the ability to import and display GIS files (.shp).

I ran through a comprehensive demo of Google Earth for Dave. He was impressed. We agreed a pilot program would be a good way of testing the concept. Dave agreed to send me a sample set of their data from Oregon location work.