Planning Atlanta: A New City in the Making, 1930s–1990s

<em>Kathryn Michaelis</em>
Kathryn Michaelis

<em>Joe Hurley</em>
Joe Hurley

This update was provided by Kathryn Michaelis, Digital Projects Coordinator, and Joe Hurley, Data Services and GIS Librarian, Georgia State University Library.

Georgia State University Library is creating a digital collection about the reshaping of the social and built environment of the city of Atlanta throughout the 20th century. GSU holds an exceptionally rich collection of rare and unique maps, city planning publications, photographs, and published datasets that document urban planning and urban renewal efforts in Atlanta, and many of those materials are being digitized to create an online collection titled Planning Atlanta: A New City in the Making, 1930s-1990s. The project is being funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This digital collection will be a valuable resource for scholars in a variety of humanities and social science fields.

The bulk of the collection will consist of approximately 2,600 city planning maps. The majority of these maps (about 1,600) are sheet maps created by the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Regional Commission. Many of these sheet maps are unique and were previously uncataloged and therefore remained unused for years. The other 1,000 maps originate from within the planning publications, which were also produced by the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Regional Commission as well as various other local and state agencies. All of these maps will be digitized and georeferenced and will be downloadable as GeoTIFFs and JPEGs; these maps will also be viewable as tiled overlays in Google Maps and Google Earth. The city planning publications containing the maps are also being digitized in their entirety and made available as full-text searchable PDFs.

The GSU Library holds a complete run of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Population and Housing series, a yearly publication first issued in 1955 and containing demographic data about the entire Atlanta metropolitan area. We have partnered with Geographic Research, Inc. to extract all of the data from the paper versions. The data will be made available for download in CSV and Excel formats and the full-text versions of the publications will be accessible as PDFs.

GSU’s Special Collections department holds a collection of over 5 million photographs from the photo morgue of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The photographs are organized by subject, which enables project staff to identify photographs related to diverse aspects of urban development in Atlanta. The photographs are scanned by graduate student assistants, who then use dates stamped on the photographs to attempt to locate the corresponding newspaper articles in the library’s collection of microfilmed Journal-Constitution issues. When an article is located, it is combined into a PDF along with the photograph and uploaded as a single object.

Library staff members are collaborating with GSU’s Department of History to record at least 12 oral histories from former residents of three neighborhoods that were heavily affected by urban renewal. Since many of the other materials in the digital collection describe urban renewal from an official perspective, the oral histories are intended to give voice to the experiences of people who experienced urban renewal firsthand.

Finally, the library will also update a collection of 1949 Atlanta aerial photographs that were digitized and made available online in 2001. This 1949 Atlanta Aerial Mosaic project will individually georeference each of the 124 aerial images and convert this collection into a single mosaic Google Maps and Google Earth overlay.  Once complete, this mosaic overlay will serve as a detailed record of Atlanta at its most densely populated point in time.  It will also provide a portrait of the city as a compact urban environment in which the central business district is the clear economic nucleus and where the urban fringes only hint toward the suburbanization that would later turn Atlanta’s urban form inside out.

Some maps and photographs are available online now. Digitization is expected to continue through 2015.

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