Encyclopedia of Place

I like information to be easy to find and freely available. I like knowing things. When I go to a park, I like to know who created the sculpture and what it’s called. I like to know who the statue is of and why they get a statue. I like to know the history of a location and why it’s important.

Unfortunately, most of that kind of information is hard to find. And it bugs me.

So I have this crazy idea of creating a sort of encyclopedia of place.

Some of the Flickr groups I’ve started recently are a first step. But they don’t offer everything I want. Wikipedia is another possible solution, but it doesn’t give me the mapping I want nor the freedom I want (all the rules get kind of old and writing encyclopedia style is kind of dull, though the nearly unlimited contributors does appeal). The ideal solution seems to be a sort of a non-date-driven blog where each entry is a specific location or thing (building, work of art, etc.). Each entry could have pictures (pulled in from Flickr, so I don’t have to supply all the pictures) and details about the place or thing (historical significance, designer, artist, date created, etc.). Each entry could also be mapped so you could easily find it (for the people who say, “Hey, that’s cool! Where is it?”) and so you could effectively search the whole thing on a map (imagine a map with pins for every entry–you could check out what’s interesting/significant in your area).

My initial idea is to focus on the Twin Cities, though there’s no reason it has to be limited to that. I could also explore other locations. The possibilities are limitless.

Part of the fun is to share this information with other people. Help others discover the art and history and interesting stories that are right under their nose (did you know a street less than a block from my house was named for my second cousin four times removed in the 1920s?). Another fun part is to start to see connections. To see that a piece of artwork in Cherokee park is by the same artist as one across the high bridge in the North High Bridge Park. To see that the designer of the Highland Park water tower (Cap Wigington) is the same guy who designed the playground building in Midway park (and that he was a ground-breaking African American architect). Another reason is simply to preserve the information so a year from now or 10 years from now I can find out who created that mural on the back side of a garage. No sense in making me (or anyone else) do that research again and again.

That’s my brilliant idea. Building it is another matter. If I could incorporate Google maps into my blog I could make the basic idea happen (though allowing others to contribute would be very web 1.0), though that’s proven easier said than done. MTMaps appears to do exactly what I want, but I can’t get it to work.

So many ideas. So little free time.

2 thoughts on “Encyclopedia of Place”

  1. Seriously, I swear I’ve seen this somewhere. It’s on the verge of being usable, but it has a few “dealbreaker” problems with it still.

    I’ll try to find a URL for you! It’s a fantastic idea.

  2. That’d be cool, Josh. It doesn’t seem like an impossible idea. Like I said, if I could get MTMaps to work, I think I could do it with Movable Type no problem.

    Heck, I could probably do it right now, but it wouldn’t have any of the database options that make it easy to update, easy to add to, easy to create new maps (the art map, the school map, the church map, the historical building map, the parks map, etc.)–it’d just be a terribly unwieldly file accessing a Google map.

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