Today sees the UK launch of a new website Old Maps Online. Created in collaboration between the Great Britain Historical GIS Project based at the University of Portsmouth and Klokan Technologies GmbH based in Switzerland and funded by JISC as part of their Content Programme for 2011-13 it offers a new way to search digitised historical maps.
Described by its creators as ‘like google for old maps’ it allows the user to zoom and pan on a world map, or type in a place name and instantly get a listing of maps available that most closely match the place and scale of map visible in the map viewer. Users can also narrow their search by date using a time slider bar. The default setting will locate the map viewer on the physical location of the user. As the user zooms in or pans the map listing is simultaneously updated. The map listing identifies maps by their name, publication information and presents a thumbnail image. Once the user finds a map they wish to investigate more closely, clicking on the map details in the listing will bring up the meta-data record for the individual map. From there the user can click through to immediately see a full-sized online image of the historical map at its host institution. There is no requirement for passwords, subscription or download to view the image.
This innovative search engine allows users to search through map catelogues across a number of institutions in a geographical way. Users will no longer have to spend time identifying which institution might hold the maps they want to view, as for the first time the holdings of individual map libraries are presented together in a single interface. Initial map holdings come from the David Rumsey Map Collection, The National Library of Scotland, The British Library, the Moravian Library and the map collection of A Vision of Britain through Time and more will be added over the coming months.
The site was launched at the New York Public Library during a special workshop ‘Working digitally with Historical Maps’ which was part the Association of Amercian Geographers’ conference and at the Gerald Aylmer Seminar 2012: Locating the Past held today at Chancellor’s hall in Senate House, which is part of the University of London.