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My Geo-collections

Mapping all the something or others

I have this somewhat unique hobby I like to call "geo-collecting." From time to time, I have become obsessed with some aspect of the human or natural landscape, and I just have to map (create a GIS dataset) of all of them. I may go try and visit a lot of them, but that is not a requirement for inclusion in the data. Some of these have turned into academic research projects and publications, others have been fun distractions.

The dates on each of these are when I spent the most time on them, but I still keep several up to date. I'm trying to build an interactive webmap of each of these, or at least provide the data online, but some aren't ready yet.

If you find any of these interesting or useful, I am happy to freely share the data I have collected. I just ask that you credit me if you use it (i.e., a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license).

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LDS Stakes and Temples (1983-2012)

As a teenager, I literally had a map on my wall with thumbtacks for all the temples when we were going through the boom of construction during the early 80s. My first geo-collection, I suppose. During the 1990s, I read the Deseret News Almanac and Church News "religiously" to look for new stakes and temples, which eventually (late 90s) ended up in a GIS, which I worked to keep updated. They made a good start for all the data we needed for Mapping Mormonism. This is one I haven't kept up to date lately.

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City street maps (1990-2005)

I was trying to map St. George years before I had discovered GIS, and it was one of the first real maps I made when I did discover it. This turned into a good freelance business (Kinesava Geographics) through the 1990s, eventually leading to me doing the phonebook maps for most of Utah (and a few cities on the East coast—long story).

Making street maps may seem like just a normal GIS-y thing to do, but for me, building my own database of a city, with lots of fieldwork, really felt like I "owned" it, like a collection.

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Virtual Tourist (1995-1997)

When I was first introduced to the Internet in 1991, it didn't strike me as especially interesting. Then I found the nascent World Wide Web, and by 1994, I was trying to figure out ways to involve maps. Someone in Norway had made a clickable map of *every* website in their country (like 10 of them), and others soon followed. So I built the Virtual Tourist, a set of clickable world and continent maps that linked to the national and state maps. That's right, I had an interactive map of all 1,000 websites in the world. Little did I know how unsustainable that was. Eventually, someone bought it and turned into an actual tourism site, which is now defunct, so nothing to link to here. Wait, there's the Internet Archive! Nope, too old even for that.

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Historical Utah & Nevada Counties (1999-2003)

I cut my teeth developing historical GIS data models and dealing with uncertainty on this dataset, resulting in a few publications. The original idea was for it to become a volume of the Newberry Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, but they stopped printing right when I finished. It did make it into the database at least, which you can view interactively or download on their site.

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Hillside Letters (2001-2006)

I have no idea how I got interested in this, but somehow I have amassed a dataset of over 600 of these "mountain monograms" in the western U.S. (and a few elsewhere). Others have published a couple websites, a short book, and a journal article over the years, but all of their lists were woefully inadequate, so I did it myself. Unfortunately, they had said about all that could be said, so no publications ensued, but it has been a fun search. I used the collection to build a series of pages on the subject on Wikipedia, to which kind folks have continued to add ones I didn't know about.

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Historical Railroads in Utah (2005-2007)

Another early project for experimenting with historical GIS, we tracked the lifespan of every link of railroad in the state. Lots of uncertainty, but that's the idea. A grad student did a great thesis and journal article on using it to teach kids about the history of Utah.

This and the counties were part of an idea I had to create a historical atlas of Utah, which eventually transformed into Mapping Mormonism (where I snuck the railroads into a couple maps!)

In February 2022, I uploaded the dataset to OpenHistoricalMap to evaluate it as a platform for sharing historical GIS data. You can actually watch an animation of the railroads here, although the handling of uncertainty and changing attributes isn't perfected yet.

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MormonPlaces (2009-2018)

In creating Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-day Saint History, my student assistants and I collected a lot of data relating to Church history. When the book came out in 2012, some scholars wanted the details about places not given in the summary maps. So I followed it up with an interactive map of a lot of the data, especially historical wards and branches, which we continued to work on. The database now including over 7,000 congregations existing prior to 1930. Yielded a couple papers, too.

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Arches and Slot Canyons (2013)

After finishing the atlas, I relaxed by making a map of these two natural features that Utah has more of than anywhere else, which are often the destinations of my hikes. There were sources out there for both, but they weren't complete and weren't in an easy to map form, so I ended up making my own datasets. No, I haven't been to them all myself!

This is, in a way, an homage to one of the great geo-collection projects, The Arches of Arches N.P., built by faculty in our department in the early 1990s.

I never quite finished the map to my liking, so this is still a work in progress.

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Wasatch Front Paved Pathways (2018-present)

Taylor, one of my sons, enjoys longboarding, but was complaining about riding Provo Canyon over and over again, and wanted to know where else he could go. Around the same time, the Golden Spoke was announced, a 100 mile paved pathway (well, collection of pathways) connecting Provo to Ogden. So I made a map of it and all the other interconnected paths along the Wasatch Front. It's quite the spiderweb, which continues to expand. I also made a web map, of course.

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Bonneville Shoreline Trail (2021)

I love hiking, and the BST has long been a local favorite. It has also been a fun mystery, because nobody seems to know exactly how much of it is official or not. Since 2018, I have been heavily involved in trail development in Utah County, which gave me the opportunity to actually try to nail down the current status, leading to our State of the BST project to hike and document (and help improve) the entire 200 miles of trail. Of course there is an interactive web map with my best estimation of what is done.