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Putting Dal on the Map: Launching the Chris Hadfield Space Photographs Collection

Posted by Libraries on April 16, 2019 in Media Highlights

By Marlo MacKay

On April 11, the Dal Libraries launched the Chris Hadfield Space Photographs Collection to a packed house in the Killam Memorial Library. Space and geography fans of all ages gathered to get their first look at the collection on the Killam’s data visualization wall before the link to the collection was publically released.

Commander Chris Hadfield donated over 13,000 of his space photographs to Dalhousie for the purposes of sharing, preserving and promoting their use in teaching and research. The photographs capture what he saw while orbiting Earth as Commander of the International Space Station (ISS) in 2013. Due to an incredible stroke of serendipity, Dal Libraries’ GIS Specialist and Map Curator James Boxall obtained the photos from Commander Hadfield on behalf of Dalhousie.

Inspired by the photos, Boxall saw the potential in using the Story Map platform to organize the collection. Caitlin Cunningham, a PhD student and intern in the Dal Libraries GIS Centre, is the author of this Story Map. Over a year, Caitlin reviewed all the photos, selecting the best 200, and then designed a series of related Story Maps to make them interactive and accessible. Dalhousie is one of only two institutions in the world to have these photos, and the only institution to create a public archive with the images.

“We are honoured that Chris Hadfield has entrusted the Dal Libraries to preserve his collection. Commander Hadfield is thrilled with the work we’ve done so that his photos can be an ongoing resource for students and the space-curious. The potential for these photos to inspire teaching and research is limited only by our imaginations and extends far beyond Dalhousie,” said Donna Bourne-Tyson, University Librarian.

In addition to presenting the photos georeferenced to their orbital path and plotted on a map, the collection features “swipe maps,” which puts two images of the same location on top of each other, for the purposes of comparing them by sliding left and right. The swipe maps emphasize change over time, making them useful for urbanization and climate change studies. Another activity presents 56 images without a label or map location, giving the public a chance to play spatial detective by figuring out where on Earth the image is. Answers can be submitted to the Dal Libraries.

Commander Hadfield sent video greetings that were played at the launch, expressing his thanks for the work the Dalhousie Libraries have done with his photos and his Chief of Staff from Chris Hadfield Inc., Cheryl-Ann Horrocks, was in attendance.