Crowdsourced Site Encourages Discovery of Historic Austin

Jun 4, 2012

A recently-launched website allows anyone to add information about historic Austin landmarks to an online map, augmented with historical data, architectural descriptions and more.

The Austin Historical Survey Wiki works like a Wikipedia page. Anyone can sign up and add information to the site, which is then filtered by a moderator.

But here, users add pin points to a map, creating a compilation of information, pictures and data about Austin’s historic sites from professional and architectural historians.

Michael Holleran, the director of UT-Austin's graduate program in historic preservation, lauds Austin’s steps in aggregating this information. “Some cities make an effort to get citizens involved, but no city has gone as far as Austin with this,” he said. (The site is a joint project between the City of Austin and the University of Texas.) Holleran says he is interested to see what app developers and other innovators might be able to do with the information.

At the launch of site, city council member Laura Morrison noted said this new survey is more comprehensive than the previous historic survey the city conducted, adding it “didn’t even address many large sections of town, including east Austin.” She also argued that the benefits of historic preservation are important to Austin’s economy in terms of tourism.

There are some perks for owners of historic properties, including partial property tax exemptions. But a new historic tax abatement program adopted by the city last year makes it harder for buildings to be designated as historic landmarks. AISD is considering adopting a similar plan