So what can GIS do? Well, it transforms regular maps into interactive tools. I have a couple of projects that I plan on using GIS for. The first is to map out the Barbarian incursions into the Roman Empire (I have mentioned these projects before). I have books that describe this, and maps that show this, but all of the maps are very unclear--they generally show large arrows, large movements of people, and fuzzy time periods. I've taken this for granted for a number of years, but now they are starting to bug me. GIS, once all of the data is entered, can show more details. Of course, the data entry is going to be the most difficult, but exciting part, of this project. There is a similar problem in early Christianity. I read constantly how fast Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, but I haven't really seen any proof for this. Again, GIS can help with this--once the data has been entered. I am just starting to collect the data. These projects are long-term projects and I am thinking on the scale of years to complete.
Another project which will need a shorter timescale is a project to map global humanities at the university. This is a joint project between myself, Prof. Linda Ivey and a few more faculty members. This project needs to be up and running by next summer.
So I know what GIS can do, now I just need to learn to use the software myself instead of passing the data off to someone else. Here is one example showing the city of Chicago three years before the Great Fire and what it looks like now. This is something I really want to do for Redwood City through the Local History Room.