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A team is working on a project through the UT School of Architecture where they are building a Historical Survey wiki. The idea is that the open source software is comprehensive grassroots survey of historical resources. It is in beta stage and hasn’t had an official launch. But she is focused on recruiting and training superusers. Basically, people can go in and enter property records describing architectural features, upload photos, or just tell a story about the site. Here is the link: http://beta.austinhistoricalsurvey.org

Go ahead and go to create account and follow prompts. Set up an account and then see what you think about getting a few progressive, grassroots historians together to talk about the tool and use it. Please note they haven’t gone all the way live yet.

The Austin Historical Survey Wiki is a survey tool under development for the City of Austin. It is intended to help citizens and preservation professionals work together to identify and document Austin’s historical resources. Visit the University of Texas at Austin project website for more background information and updates at http://www.soa.utexas.edu/hp/austin_survey

Historic preservation conserves the embodied energy of buildings, while retaining the buildings and landscapes that make cities great places to live and visit. It is a means of protecting cities’ heritage through tangible reminders of cities’ history and evolution. Survey and documentation of historic resources are essential steps in effectively integrating historic preservation and community and neighborhood planning. In conjunction with the Center for Sustainable Development, Dr. Michael Holleran is leading development of a participatory, wiki-inspired web application for the City of Austin to support the comprehensive survey of Austin’s historic resources.

The Austin Historical Survey Wiki brings together citizens’ local knowledge with the expertise of preservation professionals through an on-line application to improve the transparency, accuracy, and timeliness of historic survey information. When complete, users will be able to look up information using interactive maps and query tools, share information about historic resources, and access and upload photographs of historic resources. While the wiki tool is presently under development for Austin, the project is intended to produce a replicable model that can be used in other communities.

The project is a partnership of the University of Texas at Austin Schools of Architecture and Information, the City of Austin, and the Heritage Society of Austin. The UT project team consists of a multi-disciplinary team of faculty, staff, and students, including experts in information technology, historic preservation, planning, and architectural history.

Phase I of the project included background research, identification and exploration of prototypes and user groups, definition of the requirements and functionalities of the wiki, and development of a preliminary database architecture and interface designs. View wireframes from Phase I or Download the Phase I Report [pdf 3.5mb]

This phase involved development of a beta survey tool and testing in a pilot neighborhood. The North University Neighborhood was selected for testing.

This project was funded in part through a Certified Local Government Grant from the National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, as administered by the Texas Historical Commission* It was also partially funded by the City of Austin.

The current phase of the project involves development and testing of the Wiki in East Austin. It also includes optimization of the beta tool for use on mobile devices. Current work is funded through a federal Preserve America grant and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.

Future phases will include scaling the Wiki to city-wide, incorporation of a geographic information system (GIS), and additional development of user guides and training.

Michael Holleran, Associate Professor, Director, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, University of Texas School of Architecture (UTSOA)
Jenni Minner, Project Manager, PhD Candidate, Community and Regional Planning, UTSOA
Josh Conrad, graduate student in Historic Preservation and Architecture, UTSOA
Andrea Roberts, PhD Student, Community and Regional Planning, UTSOA
Christopher Rankin, UTSOA Webmaster
Bjørn Sletto, Assistant Professor, Community and Regional Planning, UTSOA
Kathryn Pierce, Doctoral Student, UT School of Information
Carol Brock, Doctoral Student, UT School of Information


The Austin Historical Survey Project is focusing on development and testing of the Wiki in East Austin. A team comprised of faculty and graduate students are beginning to work with neighborhoods and community organizations interested in trying out the Wiki. This work is funded through a federal Preserve America grant.

About East Austin

East Austin was historically known as the neighborhoods east of East Avenue, now Interstate Highway-35. Its early history included establishment of an African American community, as well as communities of Swedish and German descent. Red-lining of neighborhoods in East Austin and policies in the City of Austin’s 1928 Plan actively reinforced segregation. African Americans and other minority populations were pushed from established communities to the Eastside. Industrial uses were zoned for the area in the 1928 plan, which greatly impacted East Austin’s communities and development patterns. In the 1930s and ’40s, the population of Mexican Americans south of East 11th Avenue increased substantially. In recent years, gentrification has been identified as a major concern, as property values rise and demographics of East Austin shift.

There have been multiple efforts to survey and preserve East Austin’s history and communities over the years. The UT team is preparing data from prior historical surveys conducted in the area to be added to the Wiki. Prior survey data will provide baseline information that can be updated and enriched. (See Historical Resources and Surveys page to access 2000 and 2006 historical surveys of East Austin as PDFs.) New information about historical resources will be discovered and shared as more people add to the Wiki.


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Scott McNaughton

Hi Carl,

Amazing overview of the wiki. Wikis tend to have a large barrier to entry so I’m interested in seeing how the project unfolds. Is it possible to share your full Wiki strategy?

I’m interested in beginning a movement towards Wikis for my Department but I’ve got to get over the adoption hump. I’d love to know what strategies you can suggest and see some more in-depth documentation.

Thank you,

Scott McNaughton

Carl Webb

I’m actually not part of the project. I’m just an end user. But if you click on the links at the beginning or end of the post, you should see some contact information.