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Tools note: finding relevant maps and context for hot spots such as Lebanon


Having tracked the month-long Israeli-Hezbollah conflict through high street, ancillary and primary sources, I thought it time for a tools note on finding maps and contextual materials.

The shifting "
lens of the news" of the major trade and popular press deprives a concerted reader of contextual relevance in terms of event timelines, useful maps and a wider geopolitical context such that, "I have learned to look to the "committed," i.e., those who have a passion to search out and document what would be obscure or tedious work for the rest of us. Oxfam, ACLU, SPLC, FAS, and various UN relief agencies are good examples of what I call "committed" investigators." See:

Two map sources again proved useful, Perry-Castañeda and ReliefWeb (use of Google Earth was previously covered.):

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

The Map Collection at the Perry-Castañeda Library offers a useful series of maps on conditions in the Levant and Lebanon in particular. I regularly used the Lebanon Maps, Syria Maps and the Israel-Lebanon War Maps - 2006. Two especially useful in locating Israeli-Hezbollah conflict points were:

For those unfamiliar with Lebanon's religious/sectarian regions, Lebanon - Distribution of Religious Groups is useful.

I am not alone in using Perry-Castañeda as a topical resource. Its map center maintains a Online Maps of Current Interest that currently comprises:

ReliefWeb Map Centre

ReliefWeb, the UN's "global hub for time-critical humanitarian information on Complex Emergencies and Natural Disasters," is maintained by its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). ReliefWeb's MAP CENTRE has become its worldwide map locator from sources throughout the UN.

For each country displayed, Lebanon, for example, there are two boxes which allow you to select the broad categories (Complex emergency, Natural disaster, Reference and All) and the specific map themes of interest (wide spectrum that includes Affected Population, Child Soldiers, Damage Assessment, Development, Disaster Assessment, Economic Activities, Insect Infestation, Internally Displaced Persons, Landmines, Logistics, Refugees, Repatriation / Returnees, Satellite Imagery, Security, Shelter and Non-food Assistance, Transportation and Water and Sanitation among others). Relief Web then returns a list of maps that best match the selection.

Readers can prowl the world obtaining informative data and contextual relevance on areas that only merit short articles in the high street press. Excellent site, recommended.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has a Map Center of value, having taken over the content at Humanitarian Information Centre/Iraq (whose URL has been abandoned). There are, however a remaining group of Humanitarian Information Centres on distressed regions of value to the researcher.

Map Collection
Perry-Castañeda Library
University of Texas

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Humanitarian Information Centres

UNAMI Map Center
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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