The National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) and Applied Geographics, Inc. (AppGeo) have launched Olmsted Online, a Web site designed to bring together the vast collection of detailed, hand-drawn plans and drawings, as well as images of sites and parks designed by Olmsted, his sons and successor firm.
Olmsted Online’s digitized materials currently cover a pilot area of Olmsted-designed locations in and around Seattle and Spokane, Washington, including the University of Washington. There are more than 300 plans and drawings available to search and view, offering unique details and previously unavailable information about each site. Of the 300 current drawings, over 100 are geo-referenced allowing users to overlay original plans on present-day maps. In addition, Olmsted Online presents searchable data derived from the archives of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, National Park Service, for all Olmsted landscapes across North America.
Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) is widely considered the father of American landscape architecture, and is famous for designing well-known urban parks, including Central Park in New York City and the grounds of the United States Capitol. His sons, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and John Charles Olmsted, and their associates led the firm from the late 19th Century until 1979, designing thousands of landscapes across North America and internationally.
AppGeo, a GIS consulting firm specializing in custom web-mapping applications, led the team that worked collaboratively with NAOP staff to design and build the Web site. Team responsibilities included careful handling and scanning of original documents that were more than a century old, geo-referencing plans and drawings to current landscapes, data integration for plan-related photos and descriptive data, graphic design, and web design and programming. AppGeo is also managing the hosting of the site.
“The field of GIS owes a particular debt to landscape architecture,” said John Roache, AppGeo senior project manager, who coordinated the AppGeo team. “Via this unique project, which combines current GIS tools to highlight important landscape architecture and planning documents, we are partially repaying that debt. AppGeo is proud to help NAOP realize its vision for making these unique and informative documents more widely available.”
In 2011, NAOP secured a $235,000 Transportation Enhancement Grant administered by the State of Washington Department of Transportation to develop Olmsted Online. An additional grant of $5,000 from the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks enabled NAOP to enrich the descriptive content of the site. Moving forward, NAOP’s goal is to raise additional funding in order to digitize, catalog, and geo-reference for viewing on Olmsted Online drawings, images and written documents for all of the Olmsted projects across the United States and beyond.
“The Olmsted legacy includes more than one million plans and documents related to more than 6,000 projects across the nation,” said Iris Gestram, NAOP executive director. “These archival materials are fragile and located in a variety of locations. Our goal with Olmsted Online is to give the public and researchers access to these materials in digital form in a single place. Our research tools can be used to find a local park, compare an Olmsted drawing to a modern base map, download images for educational use and gain new insights and appreciation for the many ways the Olmsted firm’s work helped shape our parks and park systems, cities, and entire metropolitan areas. We are indebted to our project partners, the Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Mass., and Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, for their exceptional support of Olmsted Online.”
“NAOP is building partnerships with organizations and individuals to add new data to Olmsted Online, continued Gestram. “We are actively seeking additional support in order to extend the project to all Olmsted-designed sites. Organizations and individuals are encouraged to contact NAOP to participate as a project partner or sponsor.”