Project Management

Case Study: GPS and GIS Technologies Speed Assessment of Historic Sites in Post-Katrina New Orleans

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Executive Summary

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and GIS Technologies are often used to measure the damages caused by a natural calamity to historic sites. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and NPS undertook a field assessment methodology to present the case of damage assessment done at New Orleans post the hurricane Katrina. This case study establishes New Orleans as a geography where approximately 20% of the area falls within a historic district. It elucidates that the hurricane damaged many historic homes and was the most devastating of cultural resources since the mid-nineties in the US. The Federal Emergency Management Agency then funded the clearance of damaged homes, but recognized that this could affect many historic properties otherwise protected by the National Historic Preservation Act. This led to the assessment of 40,000 structures with the use of the Trimble GPS software and hardware that were combined with ESRI ArcGIS for management and study of data. The study discusses the equipment used in the project, including GeoXM handheld devices, Global Positioning System Pathfinder Office software, and TerraSync software. The methodology that has been worked out as part of this case study can be used as a framework by others to efficiently assess cultural resources and meet Section 106 requirements. At the heart of this methodology is a focus on field data collection of geospatial data that is easily shared through GIS technology.

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