Save Local History with New Wikipedia Map

Photo of old jail in Washington, Georgia uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Credit: Blastoids [CC-BY-SA-3.0].

Have you ever wondered which buildings near you are listed on the National Register of Historic Places? If you’ve ever tried to look this up, you probably had trouble finding what you were looking for because until the summer of 2014, there really was no user-friendly way to browse map-integrated National Register listings. Now, thanks to the Wikipedia Summer of Monuments campaign, there is a free, simple, and interactive map that shows all places listed on the National Register.

Solely considering its user-friendly integration of National Register listings, this map is incredibly valuable for researchers and the curious public, especially since the alternative is to click through endless web pages of listings organized by states and counties. Having the capability to overlay National Register listings onto a street map makes the perusal of listings so much simpler and more visually appealing.

Photograph Local History

Not only can you find National Register listings using this tool, but you can also use it to help document your local history.

national-register-map

National Register listings in Atlanta area, as shown in Wikipedia “Maps of Monuments.”

The map icons representing each individual listing indicate whether or not a photo of the historic place has been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. When you see those red “no photo” icons while browsing local listings, you should take this as a challenge to upload your own photographs. If you don’t have any pertinent photos, then go take some—with the ubiquity of digital photography we really have no excuse.

Publish Local History

In addition to displaying uploaded photos of National Register-listed historic places, this Wikipedia map also links directly to the listing’s corresponding Wikipedia article, if any. This presents another opportunity to save your local history. If a historic site doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, then you should start one. Your main source for the article could be the historic property’s National Register nomination form that was completed at the time the property was listed. Copies of completed nomination forms can be obtained at your State Historic Preservation Office or from the National Park Service.


Remember: legally speaking, listing a property on the National Register does not really protect historic places from improper modification or destruction.


Conclusion

Thanks to the internet and digital photography, sharing and preserving history has never been easier. Through Wikipedia and its useful new map tool you can do your part to save your local history and share it with the world.


Clint Tankersley is a Georgia attorney specializing in cultural heritage law. Read my bio here.