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Digital Humanities: Mapping

An introduction to digital humanities


A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer application designed to perform a wide range of operations on geographic information. (Goodchild, 2009) Geographic information is defined as information about locations on or near the surface of the Earth and may be organized in a variety of ways. Thus, a GIS includes functions to input, store, visualize, export, and analyse such information.


Goodchild, M. F. (2009). Geographic Information System. Encyclopedia of Database Systems, 1231–1236.

Common Spatial Data Format

  • Shape file - The ESRI Shapefile has become an industry standard geospatial data format. At least 3 files with the same prefix name and with the following extensions: .shp = shapefile, .shx = header and .dbf = associated database file. Additionally, you may have a .prj = Projection file, a .lyr = layer file, and other index files.
  • KML or KMZ - XML based open standard (by OpenGIS) for GIS data exchange
  • GeoTiff - TIFF variant enriched with GIS relevant metadata
  • GeoJSON – a lightweight format based on JSON, used by many open-source GIS packages

See also:

GIS Datasets

Hong Kong


  • China Data Center (U.Mich) – historical, social and natural science data about China.
  • China Historical GIS (Harvard) -- a database of populated places and historical administrative units for the period of Chinese history between 221 BCE and 1911 CE. CHGIS provides a base GIS platform for researchers to use in spatial analysis, temporal statistical modeling, and representation of selected historical units as digital maps.
  • China (via CIESIN)-- a variety of socioeconomic data, including Geographic Information System (GIS) databases that cover the administrative regions of China, presented at a scale of 1:1,000,000. These databases may be integrated with agricultural, land use, environmental, and socioeconomic data to track China's economic growth, population increases, and environmental change.
  • CITAS, China in Time and Space – capable of reconstructing Chinese administrative geography for specific historical dates, and can compare spatial data at two points in time, whether over years or over centuries


Digital Scholarship Librarian

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Terry Chung
5/F, Main Library, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road,
Hong Kong
(852) 2859-7002