Spatial Studies Lab, Rice University

Making it possible for others to map out the evolution of Levantine cities

The levantCarta Initiative

With support from the New Levant Initiative (NLI), the Spatial Studies Lab (SSL) at Rice University is implementing, over a period of three years, a sustainable, multi-tiered, and data-driven “levantCarta” project dedicated to the development of a cartographic platform that will bring together scholarly networks and enable the production of temporally accurate and illustrated maps of Levantine cities, over their entire history as well as across their social, cultural, and religious diversity.

Primary sources, such as urbanscapes, historical maps, archeological surveys, and urban design projects are located in time and space while their associated visual and geographic data are integrated across multiple databases (including an open-access digital library of images, a geographic information system, an open source relational database, and a content delivery web service). The relationship between the various project elements produces a web environment where qualitative and quantitative data are simultaneously loaded from an API, rendered across platforms, customized in many views, and probed by users in a system that supports multiple and interconnected expressions of diverse data sources. Scaled down into a mobile app, tourists and residents can walk about town while visualizing their city as it once was as well as it was once projected. For this project, SSL will interconnect a series of activities, some supported by NLI’s award and some by already secured Humanities Research Center (HRC) funding, yet all meant to act as bridges across disciplines, schools, and universities both in the US and abroad.

The award will be used to support:

  • the conception and production of an open-source and geospatially-enabled platform that integrates the technology and workflow developed for the Beirut map project that will be freely available to research groups interested in building diachronic maps of their own;
  • the collection and organization of pertinent data from diverse sources;
  • the promotion and dissemination of diachronic map projects as they come online;
  • a cohort of Rice University and University of Houston graduate students and faculty who are working on Levantine topics;and,
  • two full time GIS specialists/developers who will assist research groups in setting up maps and developing them at different stages of completion.

The HRC will sustain levantCarta by adding other, and separately funded, components, as follows:

  • a space dedicated to this initiative;
  • a resident scholar/postdoctoral fellow who will administer ongoing map projects, make scholarly contributions to them, and develop pertinent teaching modules;
  • practicums for undergraduate students who will work on map projects over their summers;
  • a program of visiting scholars interested in collaborating on diachronic map projects; and,
  • a lecture series.

Levant Carta will enable many ongoing research projects to reach a phase of public dissemination, allow others, as yet unimagined, to take shape, contribute to information technology infrastructure on campus, provide undergraduate and graduate students with new educational and professional experience, and create research communities dedicated to the study of the Levant.

Made possible by the New Levant Initiative.

Featured Projects

Interested in a collaboration?