by Sara Belligoni

On May the 25th and 26th of 2016, Università per Stranieri di Perugia hosted the 1st GIS Crowdmapping Workshop. The initiative stems from the involvement of a large group of students and young researchers whom have embraced the idea of the Water Resource Research & Documentation Center (WARREDOC) to produce a digital map of the Italian UNESCO cultural and heritage. The project was conceived in the last few months during which the WARREDOC – with the support of the Orientation and Communication Office of UNISTRAPG – was committed in a series of meetings to introduce the youths to the scientific and professional potential value represented by the increasing availability and easily using of Open Data and GIS technologies, with the aim to produce thematic maps drawing from the collective commitment of new aspiring digital mappers.

In the two days, over 130 people were involved in the Workshop which allowed to map almost all of the 51 UNESCO sites that from north to south characterize the Italian territory, enriching it with architecture, culture and history. The digital mappers created, individually or in groups, not only digital cartographies, but also Story Maps taking advantage from the ESRI GIS technology in order to recount the sites of our cultural heritage through a personal vision, transforming the User Experience in a map.

The main goal of the Workshop was to create a Digital Map of all the UNESCO sites in Italy, specifying their location and the extension, since many of the UNESCO sites in Italy are represented by whole cities, like Rome, Venice or Urbino, or from large areas, such as the Costiera Amalfitana or the Sacri Monti di Piemonte e Lombardia. For a future use of the collective map, it is even more important to identify potential risks from which these assets would be affected, which derive both from natural characteristics and human behavior. A careful analysis of the territory, its morphology, and the activities that characterize the site, has been very important for an efficient completion of the map. Not only that, the new ArcGIS Pro capabilities allow the integration with information from social media features that, through the analysis of public contents, accede to see the conditions in which the site is and, in case of disasters, a real-time up-to-date.

Several studies were developed over the years above the UNESCO sites, in addition to the official UNESCO documentation, but this experiment to create, thanks to the GIS, a digital map from the User Experience implementing informal data with Open Data and Social Media, is one of a kind. A further goal is to innovate through the involvement and the scientific dissemination for the environmental management and protection of our cultural heritage.

The community of young participants, coming from diverse professional backgrounds and geographical origins, motivated the WARREDOC to continue the activity by selecting a group of volunteers to continue the work for the creation of an Italian cultural heritage’s collective map, but not only. Because of several foreign research centers contacted us being interested in replicating the event format, the initiative is evolving in order to create a website dedicated to the publication of a Digital Map at international level.

Thanks to the support and collaboration of the UNESCO Chair on Water Resources Management and Culture, the UNESCO World Water Assessment Programme, ESRI Italy, the Umbria Region and InnLabs, the Workshop represented the starting point for a project that will culminate in October 2016 when, again in the city of Perugia, the final version of the Digital Map will be officially presented to the jury of experts that will reward the best three projects.