New York study land use

The computerized data from a New York study mapping land use and environmental data throughout the state was lost. “The study had employed customized computer software that no longer existed when the computer tapes were turned over to the New York State Archives.” [1]

More detailed:

Similarly, in the late 1960s, the New York State Department of Commerce and Cornell University undertook the Land Use and Natural Resources Inventor Project (LUNR). The LUNR project produced a computerized map of New York State depicting patterns of land usage and identifying natural resources. It created a primitive geographic information system by superimposing a matrix over aerial photographs of the entire state and coding each cell according to its predominant features. The data were used for several comprehensive studies of land use patterns that informed urban planning, economic development, and environmental policy. In the mid-1980s, the New York State Archives obtained copies of the tapes containing the data from the LUNR inventory along with the original aerial photographs and several thousand mylar transparencies. Staff at the State Archives attempted to preserve the LUNR tapes, but the problems proved insurmountable. The LUNR project had depended on customized software programs to represent and analyze the data, and these programs were not saved with the data. Even if the software had been retained, the hardware and operating system needed to run the software were no longer available. As a consequence, researchers wishing to study changes in land use patterns now have to re-digitize the data from the hard-copy base maps and transparencies at the State Archives or rekey data from printouts at Cornell’s Department of Manuscripts & University Archives. [2]


[1] Warner, Dorothy and Buschman, John. Studying the Reader/Researcher Without the Artifact: Digital Problems in the Future History of Books. Library Philosophy and Practice Vol. 7, No. 1 (Fall 2004)

[2] Garrett, J & Waters, D. Preserving Digital Information. Report of the Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information commissioned by The Commission on Preservation and Access and The Research Libraries Group. 1996