They grow up so fast; this time honored phrase can certainly be applied to the growth at Georgia State University. From its humble beginnings as an evening business school to one of the most established property owners in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia State has certainly grown up fast. And when GSU administration wanted an interactive way to showcase GSU’s growth they turned to SIF instructor and GIS mapping specialist Joe Hurley to create the tool. Under Hurley’s guidance a team was mobilized and a SIF project was born.

GSU Growth Map, the projects unofficial title, tracks 7 decades of GSU expansion, culminating with the University’s most recent expansion, the Georgia State, Georgia Perimeter consolidation. As you might imagine, the administrative leaders of the 1970s weren’t exactly considering how their progress would easily be tracked by a group of SIFs some 40 years later.  But, finding historical information about GSU’s expansion was only one aspect of the project, making an interactive and accurate map of these expansions was another.

To get a handle on the project’s scope two teams were created, a GIS Mapping team and a Photos and History team. The mapping team created an online “story map” with ArcGIS, effectively the industry standard mapping software in urban planning and geosciences fields. “Shape files” were meticulously created by tracing each building’s footprint from actual aerial photos of the Atlanta metro. Each decade has its own set of shape files that appear or disappear depending on the decade selected. The Photos and History team then searched through thousands of images available on GSU’s digital archive to find historical photos of buildings now occupied by GSU. Of course in many cases GSU constructed the buildings, so the earliest photos may be from when the building was brand new. Though GSU Law School is the earliest example of this it is by no means a new tradition. Sparks Hall was constructed by GSU in the 1950’s as was Classroom South in the 1960’s.  In other cases GSU purchased or is currently leasing a building from another owner. Robinson College of Business, for example, resides in the old C & S Bank headquarters built in 1901.

The GSU Growth Map is online now and will be updated continuously. To learn more about Georgia State’s expansion take a look at the comprehensive timeline available on the university’s website. For an example of an ArcGIS Story Map, dig into the interactive map, Tracing a History of Atlanta’s Public Transit.