Friday, January 27, 2012

Toolkit: GIS

GIS stands for Geographic Information System. GIS uses computer programs to view and analyze geographic data ranging from landforms to demographic information. You can use GIS to look at differences in population statistics (age, occupation, ethnicity, gender) across regions ranging from census tracts to nations; to create buffer zones in areas being developed that will protect endangered species, waterways, or archaeological sites; to take spot measurements and create a topographic map... there are an almost endless amount of possibilities.

In archaeology, GIS is often used to predict the locations of archaeological sites. Pre-contact and early historic sites, for example, are often found on relatively flat land associated with certain soil types and within a certain distance of fresh water. Using topographic, hydrologic, and soils data downloaded from the web, archaeologists can tell the program to identify these high-sensitivity areas. For historic sites, early maps can be pulled into GIS and overlaid on the modern geography to see where early buildings were located.

Thinking about Wiawaka using ArcGIS 10. The spidery lines on the map are railroads.

I'll be using GIS a few different ways at Wiawaka. These include: mapping site features (using location data taken by GPS or using a total station); overlaying historic maps and aerial photographs to look at how the character of the property changed over time; soils analysis for drainage and productivity for agriculture to think about the farming and location of buildings and utilities; and looking at who the visitors to Wiawaka were using the guestbooks and census data (where they lived, occupation, age, etc.). More on this last example in my next post!

One of the most commonly used commercial GIS programs is the ArcGIS suite by ESRI. It's expensive, though they do offer a free 60-day trial if you want to check it out (or use their tutorial to learn some of the GIS basics). There are open source (free) options, however, including GRASS which I will be checking out soon!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Presentation at the Society for Historical Archaeology Conference

This past weekend, I presented a paper about the Wiawaka Project at the Society for Historical Archaeology Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. It was part of a session on the Archaeology of American Hotels. More about the conference, including a link to the full program with abstracts, is online here.

A copy of my paper, "Resorts and Reform: Archaeology at the Wiawaka Holiday House, Lake George, New York" is available online here, if you are interested in reading it. I look forward to any comments!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Noted Architect Linked to Wiawaka

In researching individuals associated with the Wiawaka Board of Directors, I found mention that Mr. Charles S. Peabody helped design the new boat house that was completed during the 1916-1917 season.(1) This boat house is still in use at Wiawaka; with it's bright red color and curved entryways, it serves as a recognizable landmark both from the lake and overlooking Lake George from high up on Prospect Mountain.

Wiawaka boat house, designed by Charles S. Peabody. Photo by Megan E. Springate.

Charles S. Peabody was an American Architect born April 8, 1880 in Brooklyn. He graduated from Harvard University in 1903 and enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, graduating in 1908 the second highest in his class of three hundred. Peabody worked for the architectural firm of Ludlow & Peabody of New York, well known for public buildings including churches, hospitals, and college buildings as well as skyscrapers. Charles S. Peabody was decorated by the Greek Government for his work designing a Temple of Youth in Athens, Greece commissioned by the Greek Government, the Greek Church, and a group of American philanthropists.(2)

Other buildings designed by Charles S. Peabody (several of which are on the National Register of Historic Places) include:
The Lake George Club
The Royal C. Peabody Estate (Wikiosco), Lake George
A "daring" plan for Brooklyn's Civic Center
Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska

I don't have a full run of Wiawaka Annual Reports, but the ones I do have show Charles S. Peabody serving on the Advisory Board between 1923 and 1933. His wife served on Wiawaka's Board from at least 1913 through 1940.(3)

Charles S. Peabody died on September 10, 1935 at his summer home on Lake George.(4)

(1) Wiawaka Holiday House (1917) Wiawaka Holiday House Annual Report 1916-1917. Wiawaka Papers, Box 2, Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, New York.
(2)  archINFORM (2011) Charles S. Peabody.
(3) Wiawaka Holiday House (various) Wiawaka Holiday House Annual Reports 1913-1940. Wiawaka Papers, Boxes 1 and 2, Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, New York.
(4)  archINFORM (2011) Charles S. Peabody.