Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mapping Africa

We're always looking for geospatial data to teach with. Finding data for the U.S. is relatively easy, but finding data for other places has often been more challenging. AfricaMap is a web mapping interface created by Harvard University's Center for Geographic Analysis that can be used stand-alone in a classroom because there is a rich set of data available for viewing. The layers that I looked at, some shown below, drew quickly and came with a legend(!). Very nice accomplishment for CGA after being in operation just under three years. Here is a description of the AfricaMap project:

"AfricaMap is based on the Harvard University Geospatial Infrastructure (HUG) platform, and was developed by the Center for Geographic Analysis to make spatial data on Africa easier for researchers to discover and explore.

This project attempts to address a basic problem for all scholarship on Africa that treats where things happen as necessary to understanding how and why they happen: finding places on a map. Despite the existence of excellent public maps for Africa, to date there is no common source that allows students, researchers, and the general public to:

  1. Interact with the best available public data for Africa
  2. See the whole of Africa yet also zoom in to particular places
  3. Accumulate both contemporary and historical data supplied by researchers and make it permanently accessible online
  4. Work collaboratively across disciplines and organizations with spatial information about Africa in an online environment"
Sounds great! Here are some maps available through the AfricaMap site and some comments on how to use the site.

The above map is the 1722 Delisle Carte d'Afrique found under Map Layers -> Historic Maps 1600 to 1800. I lead with this map because I love old maps.

This map shows a map of ethnolinguistic families (mapped in 2001). Remember to add the Legend found over to the right in Map Layers.

Under the Environmental layer, you will find just three layers, rivers, soils and, shown above, surficial geology. Note that this legend is not all that useful.

AfricaMap allows for downloading of their data, but only some of the layers are currently available. That may be, in part, why they this web map is in beta. How to get to the download function: Click on Map Layers, scroll all the way over to the right. There is a Download tab, don't click there, follow the arrow down to your layer and click "download" there. If the data are available, you will be taken to the web page and source of the geospatial data, if not available, you will be given this message "Mapping data will be made available for download." That is quite hopeful.

Thanks go to Diana Sinton for sharing this web map site.

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