ChicagoAncestors.org - Discover the Past by Address
ChicagoAncestors.org allows users to "discover the past by address." Historical records culled from several organizations - including the Newberry Library, Chicago Historical Society, as well as hundreds of churches and schools - are viewed using an interactive mashup-style Google Map. Information about people, places, and events through Chicago, including user-submitted locations and photographs, can be viewed in their proper historical and geographical contexts. The user-submitted stories and photographs are some of the most compelling features of the site: some of the pictures and accounts submitted by everyday users are shining examples of digital storytelling. The site is managed and sponsored by the Newberry Library.
ChicagoAncestors.org was implemented by MT development partner CTC back in 2006-07 using the Drupal content management system. At the time, Drupal's mapping and geographic capabilities were limited at best: the Newberry Library's funding of this project allowed sustained significant and rapid development on these capabilities which were shared back to the overall Drupal community in typical open source fashion.
Historical place records on the site are entered in a variety of ways, including direct data entry by site administrators, moderated user submissions, and batch imports of tabular data acquired from organizational partners. Records are geo-coded using the Google geocoder upon input, and the resulting data is stored using Drupal's Location.module. Each record can also belong to multiple categories using Drupal's Taxonomy feature - this allows users to search for historical places of a certain type, such as Cemetery or Synagogue. In addition to categorical browsing and keyword searching, users can also perform basic geographic proximity searches to display records near a specific point or neighborhood. Supporting documentation is also provided so that users can learn about relevant map-related or historical topics such as the historical addressing schema changes and pre-Chicago-Fire locations.