Many months of planning and meetings have culminated in the August 2013 re-launch of the Cultural Resources Geographic Information System (CRGIS).
For the last nine months the CRGIS staff has been working closely with PennDOT’s development team from Computer Aid, Inc. (CAI) to make major changes to the CRGIS and AskReGIS system. The former system was a Frankenstein of programming code that was put together over the course the nearly ten year history of the public facing CRGIS. Many developers over this past decade have had their hand in making minor to major changes to the system. Like when too many chefs are in the kitchen, there have been too many spoons stirring this pot creating near chaos from the many programming languages used. Once the coding was reigned in we were able to sit down with the developers to begin discussing what changes we would like to see. This included a survey we sent out to the users. We used that input to come up with a few significant changes that we think will really help all CRGIS users.
When the users log into the CRGIS they may not notice anything different at first. The Area of Interest (AOI) page has not changed. When you build a map you will notice that the legend has changed. This change is due to upgrading our map viewer. In the legend you will see more check boxes allowing you to turn layers on and off more dynamically and much faster than the old “Change Layers” tab.
The upgrade to the map viewer has also allowed us to abandon the Adobe SVG viewer. The maps are now generated using Adobe Flash. This means that you or your IT staff can remove the Adobe SVG viewer from you PCs because it is no longer needed. Just make sure that you have Flash installed. Now that CRGIS is running on Flash this means that the user can use a browser other than Internet Explorer. We know that the system functions in IE8 through IE10 (with the exception of IE 9 64 bit), Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. We also know that since Apple does not support Flash on their products the CRGIS will not function on Safari. If you use a Mac you can still use the system. However, you will need to download a different browser. As with any new system or upgrade there may be bugs. If you find any please let us know by contacting us at ra-CRGIS@pa.gov
The biggest changes to the CRGIS are with the AskReGIS database search. Visually the look has completely changed. We now have a look that better matches last year’s changes to the AOI page. The layout is still very similar to the former version of the search. You still start at the top by selecting the type of search, and you still select other criteria below. One of the major differences is that now you will be able to switch the mode of search you are performing into advanced mode. This means that you can make a more advanced query of our database to search nearly every field contained within. For most users you will never need to do this, but we do hear from some users that they wished there were more options for their searches. That request has definitely been answered. The results page has also been updated to give it a more modern feel.
These changes pale in comparison to the biggest change we have made. The CRGIS in previous years had been backed by a combination of four different databases. These databases consisted of Historic Resources, Archaeological Sites, Archaeological Surveys, and Historic Resource Surveys. We have completely revamped this format into one database that has 3 interconnected sections. These sections are Resources, Sites, and Surveys. The Resources section has taken the place of Historic Resources. Sites is formerly Archaeological Sites, and we have combined the two different Surveys into one. These database changes are a great reflection of how our office is transitioning into looking at resources as a whole instead of as individual entities. We are now able to link an Archaeological site and a Historic Resource that spatially or historically are connected. These kinds of resources consist of farmsteads or industrial complexes.
Months of planning and preparation have finally come full circle. We are eager to hear how you like the changes to the system. We are also beginning to plan for the next big changes. If you have ideas or suggestions please let us know at ra-CRGIS@pa.gov.