It's a Living: Geographic Information Systems Professional

By Brus, Brian | THE JOURNAL RECORD, September 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

It's a Living: Geographic Information Systems Professional


Brus, Brian, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Everyone knew that when Texas cattlemen in the late 19th century drove their herds to railroads in Kansas for market, the hoof- beaten path called the Chisholm Trail passed through western Oklahoma near El Reno.

Then James Mallory and his co-workers in the Oklahoma County assessor's office found some old maps.

"After you warp or superimpose that 1873 map over the aerial photos we have available to us now, you can clearly tell exactly where it went," the geographic information systems director said. "It was labeled just as clear as day, 'Chisholm Trail.' A major branch, and it crossed the (Canadian) river just east of Bricktown and passed just half a mile away from the state Capitol.

"There's actually still traces of the trail out here that we'd like to see preserved, but I don't think a lot of developers are going to like that," he said.

Mallory, who has worked in the assessor's office for nearly 30 years, can remember when unfolding a tattered, age-browned map was a risky proposition. Old documents don't hold up well to handling, and getting the best details involved sliding a magnifying glass over a map's broken creases. Comparisons were made side-by-side on a table and often at different scales.

Back then he was a mapper or cartographer. Now he's a GISP, or geographic information systems professional, a title earned through the GIS Certification Institute. Over the years his colored pencils and rulers have yielded to online graphic design tools. And one good computer scan of an old map now provides easy access for everyone.

"It's like going from the Flintstones to the Jetsons," he said.

Mallory is equal parts historian and public servant, but his sense of history is tied to Oklahoma's geography. …

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