The Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum welcomes Niagara resident Jessica Linzel (MA History, Brock University) as she presents a virtual lecture on Using GIS to Study Local Economic Development.
It is her master’s thesis project, and will be presented virtually Feb. 16.
Linzel uses the Geographic Information System (GIS) to examine economic development in the Niagara Region between the end of the American Revolution and the beginning of the War of 1812.
GIS, Linzel explains, “is a computer system that creates, manages, analyzes, and maps all types of geographic data. GIS software is not typically used by historians, but rather by people in fields like environmental science, urban planning, etc.”
Since Linzel was interested in a specific area of geography, and a specific time in history, she used something called historical GIS to research her thesis. “Historical geographic information systems (HGIS) aid historians in their analyses, by demanding a closer look at the land itself, guiding them towards a deeper understanding of the ways in which geography impacted their particular research topic.”
The accounts of local farmers and millers, particularly those of Daniel Servos, served as a historical foundation to her research, using GIS to map this “spatial
She was pleased with the results, she says. “By mapping the historical data and analyzing it alongside geographical features in the Niagara region, GIS technologies brought a fresh perspective to a familiar topic.”
Linzel’s research was partially funded by a scholarship set up by two of museum members, David Murray and Elizabeth Surtees, through the Niagara Historical Society scholarship. Although, she was the recipient, this is the first time she has worked directly with the museum.
“I have lived in Niagara my whole life, and have walked, hiked, biked and kayaked much of the region,” she says of her inspiration for the project.
“I am consistently amazed by the beauty we have here. In 2016, I worked as a summer student at Nelles Manor Museum while in school (at Brock) getting my history degree, which is where I really began learning more about local history specifically. When I decided to pursue a master’s in history at Brock, it made sense for me to pick a local topic, since I had some foundational knowledge at that point, and was increasingly intrigued by the stories of individuals who lived and worked on the same soil that I walk every day,” says Linzel.
“I had never used GIS before though, until I began my MA in 2018. I was encouraged by my thesis supervisor, Dr. Daniel Samson, to try approaching my thesis topic (economic development in Niagara) from a geography perspective, using GIS technology to aid my research.”
The digital humanities are a somewhat newer field, she explains. “The field of spatial history emerged out of late 20th century advances in computer technology. As you can imagine, history and digital tech are not the most compatible subjects so learning GIS software was a huge learning curve for me — honestly it still is — but I realized it offers so much potential. And even after graduating, I have continued using it in my current work.”
Linzel is currently the community engagement manager at The Brown Homestead.
Her virtual lecture will begin at 11 a.m. Feb. 16, followed by a question and answer period. Registration is required at www.notlmuseum.ca. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org