Third Annual DHSI-East:
April 17-20, 2023

Join us in person April, 17-20, 2023, at St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia for the third annual DHSI-East. Hosted by St. Francis Xavier University's Digital Humanities Centre. Masks encouraged.

GIS for Humanities Workshop

The event will be 4 full days (roughly 9am-4pm Atlantic time) from Monday, April 17, to Thursday April 20, 2023. Faculty, staff, students, and all interested welcome. Registration will be capped at 20 people.


About QGIS

We will be demonstrating the operations with QGIS (https://qgis.org/en/site/index.html). QGIS will be installed on the St. FX University computers, or you may wish to install QGIS on your personal computer.

If you wish to load QGIS onto your own computer prior to the workshop, we recommend loading the latest stable version, which as of 9 February 2023 was QGIS 3.22 LTR. With high(er) speed internet connections, the download may take roughly 5-10 minutes (the file size for download is just over 1Gig).

There are no computer requirements stated on the QGIS downloads page (https://qgis.org/en/site/forusers/download.html), however, GIS applications tend to be memory- and processor-heavy. It is not necessary to have a ‘gaming’ or purpose-built computer to use QGIS, but computers older than 2-3 years or those with other large applications installed may have longer wait times for certain operations.

We also highly recommend that you bring a mouse (cabled or wireless). Touchpads and touchscreens can be extremely difficult to use with a GIS.

If there is a demand, DHSI-East may offer a virtual help session to help workshop participants download and install QGIS on their own computers.


About the Sessions

Our workshop is for humanities scholars and researchers who are new to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and new to the QGIS platform. QGIS is a free, open source application that works natively on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.

Sessions will run from 9:00am – noon and 1:00pm to 4:00pm, excepting Tuesday, 18 April when we will end the afternoon session early for the Keynote speaker. Most sessions will be a blend of instruction and hands-on application, with at least one drop-in session where participants can work on projects or ask questions.

The first session will cover GIS and the nature of geospatial data generally, as well as introduce workshop participants to the QGIS interface.

The Data session will give participants a sense of where to get data that is GIS-ready (or close to it) and what data formats can be used by a GIS. In this session we will introduce the Vector and Raster data models and the importance of projections and coordinate systems, as well as instruct participants in how to create feature classes and tailor-made datasets.

We will continue discussing the Vector and Raster data models in subsequent sessions. In the Vector model, geospatial features are defined as points, lines, areas, and surfaces, while the Raster model ‘sees’ geospatial features as values in a grid of pixels. Both models have specific spatial operations that can be very useful in analysing and visualizing Digital Humanities’ projects.

Georeferencing allows us to bring in a digital image, such as an historical map, to a GIS and effectively assign coordinates to that image. Once an image is georeferenced it can be used in analyses or as the basemap for a cartographic end product.

The Cartography session will outline how to use colour, type, and layout to create effective maps. We will not only cover the general principles of cartography, but how to apply these principles through QGIS.

We will also have a session on ArcGIS Storymaps, which are a creative way to present and disseminate your results through a combination of images, text, and other audiovisual media. This session also is a brief introduction to ESRI’s ArcOnline application.


Instructors: Jennifer Grek-Martin (Dalhousie University) and Jennifer Strang (Dalhousie University)

Image of Jennifer Grek MartinImage of Jennifer Strang

Left: Jennifer Grek Martin; Right: Jennifer Strang

Jennifer Grek Martin is completing an Interdisciplinary PhD at Dalhousie University, in which she explores why and how people use fantasy film and literature to give meaning to Real World places. This project builds on previous work in Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she researched the role of iconology in representations of Hungary in 17th century Dutch atlases, and in Information Management at Dalhousie University, where she explored how we visualize landscapes in both text and film.

Jennifer has worked for many years as a digital cartographer, creating maps and other digital illustrations for academic publications. After moving to Halifax in 2007, she taught introductory geography and cartography classes at both Saint Mary’s University and Dalhousie University and found that teaching allows her to blend her love for learning with a desire to share what she has learned. She is currently a full-time faculty member in the School of Information Management at Dalhousie.

Jennifer Strang is a GIS Analyst at Dalhousie University Libraries since 2005. In her role she is heavily involved in teaching students, staff and faculty about the uses of GIS, particularly the Esri ArcGIS suite of tools. Jennifer runs non-credit lunch time series (4 different sessions) called Lunchless Learns where participants learn the basics of GIS. Jennifer also does a number of guest lectures on various topics of GIS in many faculties and classes. Besides the more informal teaching, Jennifer also has taught GIS classes and been a collaborator on others. Jennifer also is one of the main GIS resources to students , staff and faculty to answer GIS questions, develop methodologies, as well as help with project planning and finding the available resources. 


From Big Data to Dirt Research:
Automated and Participatory Maps of Atlantic Canada's Rural Energy Transitions

Joshua MacFadyen
Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Geospatial Humanities
Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts, Applied Communication Leadership & Culture Program
University of Prince Edward Island

The keynote is free and open to the public.

The keynote will take place 4-5pm on Tuesday, with a light reception following.


The Atlantic region has deep ties to the primary sector and to what economist E. A. Wrigley called the “solar regime” of energy history. From Acadian marshland agriculture to the fishing, forestry, and upland resettlement of the British period, most economic activity harvested the biomass that plants and animals converted using solar energy. But for a region that is so dependent on these traditional energy flows, we know relatively little about the transition to industrial agriculture and external energy flows in the twentieth century. This paper presents some of the new research on agriculture conducted at the GeoREACH Lab at UPEI, which supports Geospatial Research in Atlantic Canadian History. Using the lab’s historical Geographic Information Systems (HGIS), including both QGIS and ArcGIS Pro software as well as historical data development, students have helped to digitize a number of maps and datasets that enhance this research with a focus on Prince Edward Island between 1935 and the present. The approaches range from automated polygon recognition on historical maps, to archival research, oral interviews, and an online participatory mapping project called “The Back 50 Project: Mapping Rural Land Use Change in PEI.”


Josh is an Associate Professor and a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Geospatial Humanities at the University of Prince Edward Island. His research focuses on energy transitions and traditional energy carriers in Canada, and he leads the GeoREACH lab at UPEI which supports Geospatial Research in Atlantic Canadian History. His most recent monograph, Flax Americana: A History of the Fibre and Oil that Covered a Continent, was published in 2018 by McGill-Queens University Press, and he is co-editor of the Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History.




DHSI-East Registration Rates


Early Registration
(By Feb 15)

Regular Registration
(After Feb 15)
Full rate $550 $650
Students and other low waged $250 $350

Additional scholarships available: in case of need, please contact digitalhumanities@stfx.ca before registering. Lunch and light refreshments provided.

Early Registration Deadline: 15 February

Staying in Antigonish

We recommend booking at the Maritime Inn, which is a 10-15 minute walk to the workshop venue. Ask for the StFX reduced rate for registration.


DHSI-East is part of the international DH Training Network and takes its name from DHSI, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (University of Victoria). DHSI-East is supported by funding from the Canada Research Chairs program.

The DHSI-East organizing team is Laura Estill (English, StFX), Richard Cunningham (Acadia University), Margaret Vail (StFX Library), and Meghan Landry (ACENET).

For information on past DHSI-East training events, see our archive page.