Mapping History and Culture in Warren County

Finding interesting things to check out in Warren County just got even more convenient!

The Warren County History and Culture Mapper was launched last month, and we interviewed Sara Frankenfeld, GIS Administrator for Warren County, to learn more:

Q: What is the Warren County History and Culture Mapper?

A: The Warren County History and Culture Mapper is an inventory of every historic and cultural site in Warren County, including all of the locations on the National Register of Historic Places, cemeteries, historical markers, museums, art galleries and theaters.

It’s a mobile-friendly location-based application that can be used either on a desktop computer or on a mobile device. Users of the app can locate themselves on a map and then view all of the sites near their current location. For each site, the app provides a location on the map, a photo, directions, a brief history, and a link to more information.

The History and Culture Mapper was created using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, which is basically a map and a database that got married. It allows locations on the map to be tied to a database with information about the locations – in this case, a photo, historical information, and links to directions and additional information.

Q: Why did Warren County choose to develop the History and Culture Mapper?

A: Warren County received grant funding through the New York State Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to develop an inventory of historic and cultural resources in the First Wilderness. Since the County had recently released the successful Recreation Mapper, staff decided to follow a similar format and expand its reach to create a historic inventory for the whole County. The online nature of the inventory provides a tremendous resource for both residents and visitors interested in exploring the history around them.

Q: What was the process and timeline for this project?

A: Warren County GIS staff met with the Warren County Historian in the winter of 2018 and then again with all of the town historians in the spring of 2019. Intense effort was put in by County GIS staff over the spring and summer months to visit, photograph, and document every location, and then town historians reviewed and provided feedback in the early fall. The application was launched at the end of October.

Q: What was your role in developing the History and Culture Mapper? Who else had a key role in the project?

A: I designed the look and feel of the application and the overall structure of the database, communicated with the historians, created the self-guided tours, and participated in some of the data collection efforts. I provided training and assistance for Amanda Beck, our Junior Planner, who completed the bulk of the data collection. As the two members of the Warren County GIS department, Amanda and I are responsible for maintaining and updating the History and Culture Mapper.

Amanda was instrumental in the development of the project. She did an amazing job and impressed me with how well she kept everything (over 550 sites!) organized, while still moving at a fast pace. She researched, visited, and photographed every site, developed the database, and communicated with the historians.

Also, Dr. Stan Cianfarano, the Warren County Historian, was so helpful in orchestrating communication with all of the other municipal historians, researching, and providing books, maps, and answers for us. We definitely couldn’t have done it without him.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about the Warren County History and Culture Mapper?

A: One great feature of the History Mapper is the “Self-Guided Tours” section. While the inventory of all the sites is fantastic, the tours organize sites into a theme, and provide context. For example, we received permission from architect and author Janet Hull and SUNY Press to recreate her Chestertown Architectural Tour, which visits sites in the hamlet of Chestertown and explains their architectural significance.

The Self-Guided Tours allow users to use the GPS in their phones, as they walk or drive along the tour path, to show their current location and then read about the site right in front of them in the app. We currently have tours for Glens Falls, Lake George Village, and Chestertown, and we’re hoping to expand the tours section significantly over the coming year.

We’re so appreciative that Sara took the time to talk with us about the Warren County History and Culture Mapper, and can’t wait to put it to good use when exploring Gore Region!