Anyway, continued discussion in social media circles have me again thinking about collaborative mapping. I have gathered a lot of historical information and pictures about my neighborhood; I'd like to be able to apply layers, tie in pictures, and allow others to do the same, on top of the same base map. And I bet the pieces I need to do this are all out there, but not, seemingly, in the same place, or in the same language, or usable in the same environment. Python is hot for GIS, but one solution in this space, geoserver, is Java.
Goals are important. Here are mine:
-Base map based on current data.
-Ability to apply rasters with varying transparency, so one could, for instance, overlay a nearly-opaque historic map over the base map, then put a nearly-transparent historic aerial photo atop them all.
-Ability to add vector layers which can be drawn in. Consider a case where you'd trace old property lines, municipal boundaries, land user patterns...
-Ability to tie photos to particular points, ideally with perspective information. Looking down a street towards a given direction should allow me to see a picture taken from that perspective.
And of course the ability to tie free-form text to any object. I'd then populate Pittsburgh, and start letting people fill in. Just because my own interest is history doesn't mean such a system couldn't be used for far more. Understanding the past doesn't, and shouldn't, disallow living in and enjoying the present.