geographic data (gazetteers)

Tom Moritz tmoritz at CAS.CALACADEMY.ORG
Thu Aug 4 00:32:27 CDT 1994

The US Defense Mapping Agency gazetteers are a de facto "authority" for
international place names largely because there is no other inclusive source
available which offers map references and lat./long.

At the California Academy of Sciences, we did some experiments with scanning-
in the DMA gazetteers 3-4 years ago but found that OCR (optical character
recognition) technology that we could afford -- there are apparently
sophisticated, effective and expensive systems available -- was not practical
(error rate was too high) -- at that time I spoke with the person in
charge of the data and he told me that the old tapes were in a warehouse
"being rained on" (exact quote) somewhere in the DC area.

I am certain that the Pentagon has got to have that world-wide place name
data in machine readable form -- and serving the scientific community by
releasing it in a usable form would be a great "peace dividend" -- "peace
conversion" project.  CD-ROM's would make a great format...

There is a natural community of users who could take advantage of such data
including systematists, conservationists, biogeographers, anthropologists,
historians, archaeologists, teachers, policy makers, etc.

A major initiative should be undertaken to promote the development and
distribution of these international place name data in conveniently usable

Tom  Moritz
California Academy of Sciences
(from IUCN Library, Gland, Switzerland)

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