Project Summary

The goal of Highways Waterways is to create an online cartographic platform that charts the entire urban history of Houston, its freeways as well as its susceptibility to flooding and other environmental events

Primary sources, such as photographs, historical maps, right-of-way maps, censuses, historical city directories, urban design/infrastructural plans, aerophotogrammetric surveys, spatially-defined datasets, and 50+ years of satellite observation will be located temporally and spatially in a web map, while their associated data –derived from a complex array of available datasets, e.g., infrared/optical hyperspectral imaging, radar scans, Lidar scans, aerial rasters, and vectors– will be integrated across a number of databases (including an open-access digital library of images, a geographic information system, an open source relational database, and a content delivery web service).

Once brought together, disparate forms of data will not only produce unprecedented ways of depicting the history, design, development, and projections of Houston but will also set a precedent for constructing data chronologies from diverse sources. For example, the platform will map and catalogue people displaced by highway construction and display the transformation of Houston’s neighborhoods. The relationship between the various project elements will produce a web environment where qualitative and quantitative data can be simultaneously loaded from an API, rendered across platforms, customized in many views, and queried by users in a system that supports multiple and interconnected expressions of diverse sources of information.

Such an integrated approach will allow both humanists and scientists to reconstruct the history of Houston’s existence and provide a foundation from which to project the city’s future as it responds to climate change and rapid development.