The Brisbane City Council has supplied the Mapping Brisbane Southside History Project (MBSH) the amount of $6,800, from the 2012 Community History Grant provided to the Coopers Plains Local History Group Inc., for a pilot study of three local areas: Coopers Plains (Banoon)-Sunnybank, Moorooka-Tarragindi, and Fairfield-Annerley.

The MBSH Project Team consists of three professional historians, Beryl Roberts, Janice Cooper, Neville Buch, as well as Chris Burns, a professional surveyor. Our first task is to gather all maps which will give us sufficient detail for the three local area pilot studies from five archives (State Library Queensland, National Australian Archives, Queensland State Archives, Brisbane Council Archives). After mostly completing our collection of digital map images from various archives, the next stage of the project will be to decide three to five comparative years for the study across the three local areas, based on common time-periods of the maps in the digital collection. Our choice of comparatives years would also aim at a spread across a century and half (e.g. 1860, 1885, 1935, 1961, 1975). In the following stages of the project, we will then be investigating narrative and other documentary sources in relation to the local study areas in the common comparative years, and we will probably be looking for specific records in the archives during that time.

Once the specific data is collected, its cartographic details would be combined and reproduced, using mapping software, into digital maps that can be layered in different ways. Starting with the best information to display the basic topography as it was in the selected year, upon contour lines would be layered watercourses and vegetation, followed by transport routes and access passages (i.e. tracks, roads, streets). This could then be layered with the choice of boundary and property lines, such as Aboriginal tribal districts, parish and shire boundaries, electoral boundaries, real estate layouts, and land tenure. Further layers can then be added. Houses, shops, and other commercial constructs are a few examples.

After all features that we have evidence for, from the historical data, have been illustrated, an imaginative layer could be added. This is detail where only partial evidence exists and some guess-work is used. For example, some guesswork could be used in completing the design of a building, the uncertain length of a street, the shape of a boundary, a previous contour level, and the direction of a watercourse. Accuracy is the worthy aim in the project but historians clearly know the impossibility in recovering the exact experience of being in environments that are lost to time. The purpose of this project is having the best symbolic recovery of local history environments possible and this would include an imaginative layer from the present vantage point.

A project map could theoretically have any combination of layers. Each layer would cite all historical sources used in the map details. When an imaginative layer is added there would always be a statement of the exact extent of the guesswork. Any publication of map images will include citations and statements about the composition.

Stage One:
Professional advice was gained on a map drawing software that would best suit the requirements of the project. The OS-Geo software was purchased and set-up on several laptops to start the second stage.

Stage Two:

Researchers gathered data on the topography, waterways, vegetation, boundary and property lines, as well as features of human habitation including indigenous sites, buildings and gardens, tracks, streets, roads, tram and railway lines. The data was related to a sequence of about three or four particular years across the historical distance to present, and would be specific to the three local areas in the pilot study. The data has been drawn from:

Local history archival material in various collections;

Local history publications and unpublished manuscripts;

Photographs in various collections; and significantly…

Maps in the Lands Museum, State Library of Queensland, Queensland State Archives, and Brisbane City Archives.

Once the specific data was collected, its cartographic details would be combined and reproduced, using map drawing software, into digital maps that can be layered in different ways.

Stage Three:

A website was designed to present a series of digital map files with descriptions of methodology and the landscapes revealed in the maps.