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Eastern Columbia Building in downtown Los Angeles The Eastern Columbia Building in downtown Los Angeles is one of many cataloged in the city's new Historic Places LA website.
Photo by: Flickr/Steven Bevacqua

Los Angeles Launches Historic Places Website

by / February 24, 2015

On Feb. 24, the Getty Conservation Institute and the city of Los Angeles announced the launch of HistoricPlacesLA.org, an index for historical and cultural sites in the city.

The website -- powered by an open-source system called Arches that was created by the Getty Conservation Institute and the World Monuments Fund in New York -- represents one piece of a growing trend in cultural mapping and preservation.

Eastern+Columbia+Building+in+downtown+Los+Angeles

The Eastern Columbia Building in downtown Los Angeles as seen on the new historicplacesla.org website.

The portal includes about 25,000 resources that users can sift through, including 29 Historic Preservation overlay zones, 430 historic districts, 1,065 cultural monuments, and 300 nationally-registered historic places. Featured searches like “Modernism is LA,” The Entertainment Industry,” and “Pre-1900 Los Angeles” allow users to sort through the data by theme, or users can search the database manually. Users can find landmarks, historic districts, and filter by time or location.

Outside of cultural preservation, the website also has practical uses, like allowing land developers to identify potential road blocks or plot boundary lines against existing data to find conflicts.

The data used for the website was gathered through surveys like those conducted by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and SurveyLA, which contains data that will continue to be added to the website until 2017.

The technology behind the website is garnering interest from other government agencies, too. Tim Whalen, director of the Getty institute, said the U.S. State Department made a grant to the University of Chicago to use the site’s open source platform — Arches – to identify and map places in Syria damaged by war.

LA’s new website is one part of a growing trend in civic technology to map and catalog a city’s cultural and geographic resources. New York is engaged in a similar project through grant awarded by the Knight Foundation, and Google Maps is continually adding new resources to its platform, like tours of California’s trails and parks, the ability to view old street view images with Time Machine, and Google Cultural Institute’s Street Art Project.