Around 2011, I was working at AGRG on Community Mapping. We had discovered the work of Paul Beach in Sault Ste Marie. He had developed the Community Information Utility (CIU) concept and implemented it in his region. The idea was to give citizens access to digital geographic information about their community. We brought Paul to Halifax and Lawrencetown. He met with Ian Thompson (Deputy Minister, and later with the Chronicle Herald). AGRG hired Ron L’Esperance’s company to see if the concept could work in Southwest Nova.
Roll forward to 2018. From Larry Powell’s recent article in the Annapolis Spectator on sustainable forestry, we see that Annapolis County is expressing an interest in “evidence-based management”.
If they are to be accountable, then we must agree on the underlying information. In my mind, it’s positive to see the municipal government voice these concerns to the province and the Lahey Commission. However, it does not address my question, as a citizen, about access to geographic information. Not only access but who manages the technology. Both the provincial and the municipal government are supposed to be representing the interests of their constituency, i.e. citizens, and that includes access to information.
For example, with the MapAnnapolis project with heritage mapping of Centrelea, Round Hill and Granville Ferry who manages the information? How is it accessible to citizens?
Besides the forestry example, there is the question of arsenic and uranium in the groundwater of South Mountain. Who manages that information? How does it impact the health of citizens or impact property values?
If we roll back, even further, 1987, COGS hosted a one week CCA Summer Institute on GIS. We brought together a number of the leading thinkers on GIS technology and provided a hands-on education for the next generation of university professors.
Next month, the Canadian Cartographic Association (CCA) will be holding its Annual conference for the first time at COGS. Again, we will be bringing together some of the same thinkers, thirty years later.
For example, Professor Michael Goodchild in 1987 was at the University of Western Ontario. Shortly, thereafter he moved to the University of California, SantaBarbara as part of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis. At UCSB, he developed the Alexandria project. This project placed GIS and Remote Sensing technology in the Library. Subsequently, James Boxall championed a similar concept of a Map Library at Dalhousie University. Goodchild is one of the keynote speakers at the CCA meeting. His talk is entitled ‘Place, Space and GIS’.
Let’s join the dots. What would it take to have a community information utility available to citizens, perhaps initially as a pilot in Annapolis County, through the Annapolis Valley Regional Library or the NSCC at COGS?
We already have the example of the legacy of Walter Morrison’s work as a Map Collector and Cartographer at COGS. We have access to the results of Walter’s life work.
Why not put a public face on this geographic information? We have made some progress in our public history, but we have a long way to go in our public geography. If we had a Community Information Utility, there would be an accessible repository for the results of citizen science that would complement our local efforts in, for example, Clean Annapolis River project, MapAnnapolis and Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve Association.
The CCA conference is May 30- June 1. It includes presentations on First Nations mapping, the UNESCO Grand Pré site, community mapping, keynotes on trends in cartographic technology and thinking.