I have stressed in this article the importance of contextualising archaeological and historical material in time and space, using interactive maps, map-based keys to location and the representation of time through animation. Without such contextualisation, many resources lose a valuable component of their information content.
Kraak and Brown (2001) briefly touch on some of the potential applications of web-based map resources, but to date most such resources are pre-rendered map images and occasional animations. A number of proprietary solutions exist for creating embedded interactive maps in web pages, and there are many freeware components which can be assembled to create solutions. Such embedding is not yet commonplace, so the available solutions are often either expensive (if proprietary) or require some technical expertise and application, even though they may require no programming per se. Current web-mapping solutions do not address the time dimension, so important for presenting historical and archaeological information. Furthermore, many people who might benefit from such interactivity are simply unaware of what is available, do not know how to address the technical requirements, do not have the confidence to poke around for a solution and are perhaps discouraged by the technology deployed by cutting-edge VR and GIS projects.
On the positive side, developments such as those described in this paper, will allow interactive maps to be routinely embedded in educational web sites, with technical development and competition from the open source domain driving down costs, spreading knowledge of appropriate tools and providing simple solutions for the relatively technophobe. The ECAI metadata clearinghouse and TMJava application already allow embedding of time-enabled interactive maps in a web page through some simple html editing. This facility is available without installation of any special software (although it is unlikely that the current technology would be able to service a worldwide demand for embedded maps!).
There is a promising future for interactive map resources on the web, which can be interrogated and incorporated into lesson plans and curricula
With such low cost, or no cost, solutions becoming available, there is a promising future for interactive map resources on the web, which can be interrogated and incorporated into lesson plans and curricula. These maps will provide spatial indexes to content, contextualisation of text, image and multimedia resources, and interactive maps which will allow students to explore and experiment with alternative hypotheses. The challenge will be to develop pedagogical approaches and curricula which address the potential of interactive maps to create active learning environments.
Last updated: Wed Sep 11 2002
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