Jessica Nowlin: 300th Anniversary Celebration of Béjar: Historical GIS (hGIS) Story Map Projects

Hello all! My name is Jessica Nowlin, I am a GIS specialist at the Center for Archaeological Research and a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Classics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. I will be speaking on the 300th Anniversary Celebration of Béjar: Historical GIS (hGIS) Story Map Projects, which was created as a collaboration between the Bexar County Heritage and Parks Department and the University of Texas at San Antonio. Working jointly with John F. Reynolds (Department of History) and Clinton M. McKenzie (Center for Archaeological Research), we created a series of interactive ESRI Story Maps to tell the history of Bexar County from the earliest evidence of human occupation until the end of Spanish rule in 1821.

In telling this story, we endeavored to produce an inclusive history that took into account men and women of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. This meant not starting from the arrival of Spanish explorers and missionaries in the early 18th century, but looking at the long span of indigenous settlement in the Bexar County region, exploring their cultural and societal changes over nearly 10,000 years of history. Additionally, when telling the story of Spanish settlement in Bexar County, we wanted to make publicly accessible the numerous archival documents, early maps, and historical archaeological data that could provide a more human connection to the earliest European settlers of San Antonio de Béjar.

In an effort to make these stories visually engaging, we centered each story around material that could be mapped and visualized within an online, interactive GIS map. These stories incorporated a wide variety of archaeological data, primary historical sources, digitized archival records, and 3D artifacts and historical reconstructions. While much of the behind the scenes work done to create these stories can be used as the basis for scholarly publications, the primary goal of this project was to make the prehistory and history of Bexar County widely available to members of the local population, visitors, and anyone interested in the history of this region.

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