The opening day of the annual conference began with an enlightening welcome from Florida’s state GIS coordinator, Richard Butgereit. He shared a couple of interesting facts about Florida. Between May and August, Florida has gone from a state of extreme drought to very wet due in part to 3 tropical storms and increased frequency of severe storms. Richard’s advice – if it thunders, run for cover!
We then had the pleasure of receiving a presentation from the State Archaeologist of Florida, James Miller, PHD, LLC, who shared examples of how GIS has made a profound difference in how they conduct their research and preservation efforts. He explained that GIS is the most powerful tool he has come across to help with his work and explain the results of his work. Examples included research into the Gainesville Depot, which they discovered had been moved 3 times since the 1800’s. Efforts are nearing completion to move the depot to its original location and restore it to become a useful building again. The second example was Heritage Park in the Bahamas. Their advice to the creators of the park – you don’t need to dig, you need a plan. Their research helped identify points of interest and the ideal location for the park using a combination of physical documents and GIS analysis. Finally, a highlight was the story of their research of Freetown in the Bahamas. Their research combined historic imagery, physical documents and interviews with former residents, including the Cooper family, to document what the town looked like in the past. They were able to identify wells, community centers, grave sites, and get a better understanding of the physical and cultural characteristics of the town. What an honor it was to hear about this research, and great examples of how GIS analysis can help preserve our past!