New ‘Old Maps Online’ project funded by Joint Information Systems Committee

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) have awarded the University of Portsmouth, and the GB Historical GIS project team, a new grant of £139,900 as part of their JISC Content Programme for 2011-13. The new project is called Old Maps Online: Finding and referencing historical mapping as a platform for research and teaching, and runs for fifteen months starting in November.

This is not another grant to extend the web site A Vision of Britain through Time. Instead, we will be creating a quite separate open access web site enabling users to search for online maps across many different digital libraries, based not on the titles of maps or who drew them, but on the places the user is interested in. We will not be starting from scratch, but rather using the MapRank Search interface already developed for the David Rumsey Collection in the US by Klokan Technologies Gmbh, who are a key partner in the project:

To be included in the portal, old maps need to be:

  • Already scanned
  • Geo-referenced: we must at least know the approximate real world coordinates of the corners
  • Freely, directly and fairly reliably accessible on-line, on the web site of whatever library holds them

So long as these conditions are met, the portal will work much like the existing Vision of Britain map library: it will list maps covering the area the user is interested in, providing hyperlinks which lead directly to online views of the actual maps.

Our application was supported by the British Library, the Bodleian Library, the National Libraries of Scotland and of Wales in the UK; and by the David Rumsey Collection, the Harvard Geospatial Library and the New York Public Library in the US. Because the project is based on existing software, we will be launching the first version of the portal at historic map-focused one-day meetings in New York on February 25th 2012 and London on February 29th; more about those meetings later.

That first version will probably be limited to the Rumsey Collection, the National Library of Scotland and ourselves, but during the rest of the project we will add access to our other partner libraries, and hopefully recruit additional partners. Our funding is about improving access to existing digital content, so we cannot help map libraries scan their collections, but we may be able to assist with geo-referencing, and advise on software for making map images viewable on the web. Note that the latter software does not need to have any geo-spatial capabilities, as those will be provided by the portal.

Another major component of the project is about making historical maps not just easier to find online but easier to cite, defining persistent Uniform Resource Identifiers, but that is for another posting.

We are one of 7 funded projects under Strand C of the JISC Content Call, on Clustering Content. For more information about the funding programme please see the JISC Digitisation blog:

About Humphrey Southall

Director, Great Britain Historical GIS; Reader in Geography, University of Portsmouth
This entry was posted in Content, Funding, Interface, Website and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to New ‘Old Maps Online’ project funded by Joint Information Systems Committee

  1. Lobb32 says:

    Great job on the blog, I think your post was right on target. I will definately bookmark your site for future reference

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