Mapping the industrial archeology of Boston

Kris Kolodziej, Raul P. Lejano, Chikako Sassa, Sushila Maharjan, Jalal Ghaemghami, Thomas Plant

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In a pilot project initiated in September of 2001, the Boston Public Health Commission, in collaboration with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developed a methodology for super-imposing historical and present-day industrial land use data layers with demographic information and public health data. The goal was to identify and to possibly define a historical relationship between present-day public health concerns and past practices of land use within an urban environment. Historic data layers showing location and type of industries known to emit hazardous substances were interpreted from Sanborn Fire Insurance maps in the years 1888 and 1962. These historic industries, along with current-day industries listed under the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Tier 21 and Major Facility databases, were classified according to the Standard Industrial Classification Manual published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and linked to tables of hazardous chemicals associated with each type of industry. Using ESRI ArcView 3.2 GIS, the two historic data layers were then overlain with present-day census and public health data. A customized spatial filtering function was developed to highlight "hotspots" of significant industrial activity and the accumulated risk potential over a period of time. The result is an archeology of risk. The intent is to produce a planning tool for strategic environmental health intervention to serve professionals in government and the private sector, such as public health professionals, legislators, city planners, and environmental designers, as well as community-based organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-13
Number of pages9
JournalURISA Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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