The Austin Historical Survey Wiki brings together citizens' local knowledge with the expertise of preservation professionals through an on-line application to improve the transparency, accuracy, and timeliness of historic survey information. Users are able to look up information using interactive maps and query tools, share information about historic resources, and access and upload photographs of historic resources. While the web tool was developed as an information system and public engagement tool for the City of Austin, the project is intended as a replicable model that can be used in other communities.
Historic preservation conserves the embodied energy of buildings, while retaining the buildings and landscapes that make cities great places to live and visit. It is a means of protecting cities' heritage through tangible reminders of cities' history and evolution. Survey and documentation of historic resources are essential steps in effectively integrating historic preservation and community and neighborhood planning.
In conjunction with the Center for Sustainable Development, Dr. Michael Holleran is leading development of a participatory, wiki-inspired web application for the City of Austin to support the comprehensive survey of Austin’s historic resources.
About the Project
The project is a partnership of the University of Texas at Austin Schools of Architecture and Information, the City of Austin, and the Heritage Society of Austin. The UT project team consists of a multi-disciplinary team of faculty, staff, and students, including experts in information technology, historic preservation, planning, and architectural history.
The project has proceeded over several years in phases. The first phase of the project included background research, exploration of prototypes and user groups, identification of requirements and functionalities, and development of a preliminary database architecture and interface designs. This phase is summarized in a Phase I Report [pdf 3.5mb].
The second phase of the project involved development of a beta survey tool and testing in a pilot neighborhood. The North University Neighborhood was selected for testing in the second phase of the project. The phase was funded in part through a Certified Local Government grant from the National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, as administered by the Texas Historical Commission.* It was also partially funded by the City of Austin.
The current phase of the project involves development and testing of the Wiki in East Austin. It also includes optimization of the beta tool for use on mobile devices. The current phase is being supported in part by a Preserve America grant administred by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior* and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.
Future phases could include loading of legacy data for areas in West Austin, integration of the Wiki into the City of Austin's geographic information system (GIS), and development of additional features and training.
UT Project Team
- Michael Holleran, Associate Professor, Director, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, University of Texas School of Architecture (UTSOA)
- Jenni Minner, PhD Candidate, Community and Regional Planning, UTSOA
- Josh Conrad, Programmer, UTSOA
- Andrea Roberts, PhD Student, Community and Regional Planning, UTSOA
- Amenity Applewhite, UTSOA Webmaster
- Bjørn Sletto, Assistant Professor, Community and Regional Planning, UTSOA
- Kathryn Pierce, Doctoral Student, UT School of Information
- Seher Dholakia, Student Assistant
Official Launch of the Austin Historical Survey Wiki! A virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday, June 4, 2012 at noon in Austin City Council Chambers.
- Article in The Villager featuring the Wiki. Download pdf.
Stakeholders/Technical Group meeting. Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 10:30 am - noon at the Carver Branch Library (1161 Angelina). Representatives of the City of Austin, community-based organizations, and other local and state government agencies met to discuss policies, coordination, technical considerations, and public outreach for the Austin Historical Survey Wiki.
- East Austin Wiki Tours: Are you a history buff, interested in family genealogy, or just plain interested in Austin's history? Are you involved in a neighborhood association, church, or other community organization that is interested in East Austin's past and the future of its historic places? You are invited to stop by and take a tour of the Wiki on March 28, 6pm - 7:30 pm at the Carver Branch Library, 1161 Angelina.
- An open house with hands-on tours of the Wiki was held in the East César Chávez neighborhood on February 15, 2012 at the Terrazas Branch Library. Attendees were invited to add historic places, photos, and new information to the Wiki.
Preserve America Grant Awarded! The City of Austin has been awarded a $87,278 grant from the Department of Interior, National Park Service (NPS) through the Preserve America (PA) grant program. The funds will be used to continue the partnership between the City's Historic Preservation Office and the University of Texas at Austin Historic Preservation program to develop a wiki inspired web application to support a survey of Austin's historic resources.
Since 2006 the Preserve America grant program has awarded more than $20 million in matching grants to 259 projects throughout the country to provide communities with a greater shared knowledge about the Nation's past, strengthen regional identities and local pride, increase local participation in preserving the Country's cultural and natural heritage assets, and support the economic vitality of our communities
Alyson McGee, City Historic Preservation Office, says "Funding from this Preserve America grant is vital to continuing the partnership with UT to further the City’s goal of identifying historic sites in East Austin and creating the tool to make this information more accessible to the public."
- Austin Historical Survey Wiki featured on the Austin Post. Jackie Stone reports on the question: "So, why is this an awesome thing for Austin?"
- February 25, 2011 - An Historic Occasion: Volunteers Test Web Tool for First Time. Enthusiasm was in the air as a small group of volunteers in the North University Neighborhood met over coffee, pastries, and laptops to test the beta Web Tool. This was the first time the web tool has been tested outside of the team developing it. Four volunteers from Grooms Addition, an area of the North University neighborhood, entered previously handwritten historical surveys into the digital realm. They learned how to enter and revise information for mapped historic resources. As they learned and tested the Web Tool, they shared stories about how the neighborhood had changed over the years.
- From Expert Determinations of Significance to Generative Local Knowledge: A Web Experiment. Project team members presented the Austin Historical Survey Wiki during the Historic Preservation Intensive of the Environmental Design Research Association conference in Chicago. Read abstract.
- Austin Historical Survey featured in National Trust for Historic Preservation Report. The Austin Historical Survey Project was cited in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's report Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act: Back to the Basics. This report describes the Austin Historical Survey Web Tool as "a sophisticated community survey tool that will be posted on the website of the City of Austin (a Preserve America city and certified local government)." (p. 177) The project is provided as an example of web 2.0 technology that can alert planners in federal and federally-assisting projects to historic resources of value to the community and increase public interest and participation in the section 106 review process. (p. 54)
- August-September 2010 Austin Historical Survey Newsletter.
- Open House! View slides from the Austin Historical Survey Open House/Stakeholder Meeting [pdf]. Meeting was held Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at the Austin History Center.
- Heritage News article about the Austin Historical Survey project in Winter 2010 issue [pdf]
To learn more or get involved
- Go to the Austin Historical Survey Wiki
- Subscribe to the Austin Historical Survey newsletter for project updates
*The contents and opinions, however, do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Department of the Interior, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial produces constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Department of the Interior.
This program receives Federal funds from the National Parks Service. Regulations of the U.S. Department of the Interior strictly prohibit unlawful discrimination in departmental Federally Assisted Programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, age or handicap. Any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility operated by a recipient of Federal assistance should write to: Director, Equal Opportunity Program, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, P.O. Box 37127, Washington, D.C. 20013-7127.