Research student

I am a first year history PHD student researching protest movements and counter-cultures in formerly divided Berlin. One of my case studies involves a comparison of squatter communities that emerged in the eastern and western halves of the city during the 1970s and 1980s.

I wanted to use the resources provided by the Visualising Urban Geographies project to plot the positions of illegally occupied properties in the city. Thus far, using West Berlin’s Interior Ministry reports, I have managed to identify the locations of squatted buildings in the western half of the city. I plan to do the same for East Berlin once I have the necessary data.

The process of mapping addresses was relatively straightforward, even for someone like myself who has limited computing skills.

  1. First, I obtained a historical map of the city of Berlin that showed the old boundary between the eastern and western parts of the city and georeferenced it using the online software.
  2. Then I copied all the addresses of West Berlin squats (some 160 in total) into an excel spreadsheet and, making use of the VUG BatchGeocode tool, geocoded the individual addresses. Once I had created two files, one with the georeferenced historical map, the other with the geocoded addresses, I was able to open both simultaneously in Google earth. This provided me with the addresses I had entered plotted on a historical map overlay.

The VUG software and guidelines have proved very useful for my research so far. Through mapping the physical locations of occupied buildings, I have been able to identify three distinct clusters in which West Berlin’s squats were predominantly concentrated. I have yet to determine why the squatters were concentrated in these particular areas. I also expect that the VUG software will be useful when it comes to presenting my research, either to my academics or the wider public, as the historical maps will be able to serve as powerful additions to PowerPoint presentations, especially for audiences who are unfamiliar with the urban geography of divided Berlin.