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'GIS and Deep Memory: Outline of a Rationale and Methodology': Les Roberts

Les discussed the key role that GIS played in his work; both in informing it and shaping new critical methodologies.

He discussed his “Sands of The Dee” project which explored ideas of liminality in relation to the landscape, as well as personal investments in the landscape, focusing on the area surrounding the River Dee. It was about reclaiming the area – figuratively and literally – by tracing its social and historical role.

Les explained that the project had started life as a photographic study of the River Dee and the nearby town of Saltney, and that GIS and GPS technologies functioned as tools of geo-historical navigation within his work.

Les outlined how he made use of 2001 census data, and of a digitised coroner’s report from 1500, which outlined all the deaths that had occurred on The Dee, giving Les an idea of some key points of significance. When he digitally mapped all of these deaths along the river, they highlighted the key drowning hot spots but also what the river was being used for throughout history (e.g. washing clothes). Les also imported data from an early map onto a GPS device, meaning that the geo-referenced data could be taken into the field. Trying to follow the path, he found that a lot of the space was now off-limits.

Les outlined some of the key reasons for his choice to use GIS as follows: Ability to geo-reference research data, incorporation of additional datasets, research interface, and ability to link with GIS for site-specific navigation.