Rowin J. VAN LANEN1, 2 | Menne C. KOSIAN1 | Jaap Evert ABRAHAMSE1

(1Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, landscape department, Amersfoort, The Netherlands | 2Wageningen University and Research, department of Soil Geography and Landscape (SGL), Wageningen, The Netherlands)

How can we learn from the past?

The importance of cultural heritage and GIScience for facing present-day challenges.

Keywords: GIS, landscape dynamics, (historical) water management, climate-adaption strategies, political and societal influencing.

Abstract:Throughout history people have had to adapt to changing environments. The forcing factors behind these changing environments are either of cultural or natural nature. Many of these factors are not unsimilar to the challenges we are facing today. Changes in climate, increased weather extremes, soil subsidence, water-regime changes, flooding, avulsions, soil conditions and demography have occurred throughout history and remain highly topical themes for modern-day societies. Knowledge on how people in the past have dealt with many of these challenges therefore can be not only an inspiration for modern-day planners and architects, but can also provide increased understanding and subsequent solutions for policy makers (e.g. politicians) and the general public. Consequently, cultural heritage plays a vital role in facing present-day and future challenges.
In this introductory paper we will present a case study which shows how GIScience can help facing modern-day challenges. We will present a historic GIS developed at the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE). In this GIS, which is continuously being updated and expanded, data on the past natural and cultural landscape of the Netherlands (16th-19th centuries) are integrated with information on the present-day landscape. In the system data on historic city plans, palaeogeography and historical route networks are combined with information on historical-water systems. This allows us to use this GIS both for climate-adaptation strategies in both historical city centres (urban; local scale) and off site infrastructure such as water-management system (rural; regional scale). The GIS facilitates the integration of historical knowledge on urban and rural environments using land and water infrastructure. Such an integrated view is not only important from a scientific point of view, but also aids policymakers, technical engineers and planners and helps creating public awareness and support for cultural heritage as a means for facing modern-day and future challenges.