Friday, December 19, 2014

Planned downtime: Saturday 17th January 2015 10am-5pm CET

We would like to give advanced notice to all our users that the infrastructure that our sites and services run on is being upgraded. This is essential maintenance and whilst it is happening Old Maps Online will be partially, and at times may be completely, unavailable.

This will occur on Saturday 17th January 2015 between 10 am and 5 pm (Central European Time).

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Impact video now available

As part of the Jisc funding requirements the Old Maps Online team had to produce a video report on the impacts of the website. As the site launched early on in the life of the project there was plenty of material for inclusion in the video and lots of people willing to talk about why they like the site.

The filming was done on location at the one-day conference, Working Digitally with Historical Maps, that we organised in Edinburgh in December 2013 and we are grateful to the National Library of Scotland for allowing this. The video has been uploaded onto and is available to view on the new "Impacts" page on the website.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Old Maps Online at the International Cartographic Conference

Despite the funding from Jisc finishing in January this year we are still working to promote the project. Petr Přidal of Klokan Technologies recently presented a poster at the International Cartographic Conference, which this year was held in Dresden, Germany from the 25th -30th August. The poster presentation focused on the Old Maps Online project as a search system tailored to work with historical maps in a spatial way, something traditional search engines struggle with, and how implementing Georeferencer as a means to turn scanned maps into digital resources which are easy to find using crowd-sourcing helped various national libraries contribute their maps to the Old Maps Online system.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Preserved for posterity

Old Maps Online has been included on a list of 100 websites considered important enough to preserve for future generations. Experts from a consortium of UK national libraries chose 100 Websites which they consider will be essential reading for those looking back at 2013. An archive of these UK based websites will be created using new powers the libraries have been given to preserve digital content.

The eclectic mix of sites on the list range from social media such as facbook and ebay, via online shopping from high street stores to housing and public interest sites such as OpenStreetMap and Galaxy Zoo. Old Maps Online is described as:

"...revolutionising the way in which we conduct historical research and will be invaluable for future researchers wishing to dive through layers of history geographically"

The project team is immensely proud to have been included in this list.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Online reviews of Old Maps Online

After nearly a whole year of Old Maps Online being live we thought we'd do a quick review of blog comments mentioning the site which have been posted since the initial flurry of interest following the launch. Below are a selection of what we found people have said about actually using the site.

1st March 2012, Brownhillsbob's Brownhills Blog
"Here’s a great one... It’s a new site for old maps – it’s got lots of great material, including Ordnance Survey popular and inter-war editions, and the resolution and working area are great too, often a bit of a limitation on such services. Best of all, it’s absolutely free of charge to use."

30th March 2012, Latest Web Crunch
"The 3 Best Places To Find Free Historical Maps Online: [1] Old Maps Online. This website has been recently designed. If you want to search for any information related to maps, check out this website. It combines map data with an excellent technology and offers brilliant results."

9th April 2012, Genealogy
"This mapping site is really neat, serving as an easy-to-use searchable gateway to historical maps hosted online by repositories around the world. Search by place-name or by clicking in the map window to bring up a list of available historical maps for that area, and then narrow further by date if needed. The search results take you directly to the map image on the website of the host institution."

13th August 2012, The Cambridge Room
"For those of you who love historical maps, there is a new database called Old Maps Online, that allows free access to maps in libraries around the world. Described by its creators as like Google for old maps, Old Maps Online is a central repository to a vast collection of maps across the globe."

23rd September 2012, Genealogy's Star
"If you want to see more of what is available, then you should take a look at Old Maps Online. This site allows the user to search for online digital historical maps across numerous different collections via a geographical search."
Detail of Golden Gate Park from The
"Chevalier" ... Map of San Francisco
by A. Chevalier, 1911 (c) Cartography

"The David Rumsey Map Collection has a whole bunch of historical maps. Using the Old Maps Online index, which I searched for maps of SF, 1910-1915, I found this "Chevalier" map from 1911. … The nice thing about the Old Maps Online index is that you can restrict by date as  well as by location. It seems better than the built-in search and browsing feature on the David Rumsey site; when I had searched 
there initially, I didn't see anything immediately promising."

6th December 2012, Andrew Zolnai Blog
"Maps are forever... or they are Man's best friend. I'm a big fan of the British Library ... - has an amazing array of old maps, which they just finished georeferencing through a significant effort in crowd-sourcing … These maps are now linked to Old Maps Online of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project at University of Portsmouth UK. And being an amateur medievalist* myself, I set the time slider atop the page to between 1000 and 1725, and presto! up comes a 1610 map of "Cambridgshire..."

7th December 2012, Clark Library Blog
"Because it pools the resources of many of the world’s premiere map collections, a visit to the Old Maps Online portal is like taking a trip to many libraries at once, all with a few clicks of a mouse. It may be the place to turn for that hard-to-find map you’re searching for."
Vienna detail from 'Viennense Territorium
ob Res Bellicas inter Christianos et Turcas
Nuperrime E...' by Nicolaum Visscher,
[1685-1700] from the Moravian Library

10th January 2013, Border Telegraph 
(by Peter Munro, one of our speakers in Edinburgh) 
"The website provides an easy to use method of finding places and 
even streets around the world without having to know the name of 
the map, the name of the cartographer and the name of the library 
that holds the map. The maps can also be searched in foreign 
languages and that's useful for us in accessing foreign maps. I've 
managed to find streets and places in Romania and Austria on old 
maps that aren't mentioned on current maps and that living people 
hadn't heard of."

The good news is that people are still discovering us, liking our site and, perhaps most importantly, finding maps they want to see. With the impending addition of a number of new map collections which will increase the choice of maps we link to we can reasonably hope this trend will continue.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Edinburgh Conference: Working Digitally with Historical Maps

Firstly we'd like to wish all our readers a Happy New Year. Secondly below you will find a summary of the proceedings of the one day conference organised by the Old Maps Online team which was held at the end of 2012.

In December we journeyed north to Edinburgh to hold our second conference on Working Digitally with Historical Maps at the National Library of Scotland. People from a variety of different backgrounds attended, ranging from those already working on innovative ways to use digital historical maps, through those who have digital maps and wanted inspiration on what they could do with them to those just beginning to have an interest who wanted to see what is currently available.

The day was broken in gently at 10am with coffee and an introductory welcome. This was followed by Petr Pridal giving the key note presentation detailing the improved functionality and searching and much extended content of our own Old Maps Online site (we'll let you know when these changes have actually gone live).

Following that Session 1 looked at using technology to map
Detail from Nairn and Elgin, W. Johnson, 1832.
(c) Cartography Associates
history. It started with two staff from the National Library of Scotland, Chris Fleet who detailed the improvements made to their online mapping and catalogue which make it even easier to use and search their collection, whilst Alice Heywood showed us a Moray community project where local people recorded their views on interesting places around Elgin available to visitors through a mobile app. Another mobile app was described by Chris Speed from the Edinburgh College of Art which allows users to download historical maps to compare with their modern day location through the "blue dot" location marker. Peter Munro finished off the first session by describing how the Borders Family History Society have been digitising historical personal records and then mapping addresses from them to show sometimes surprising distribution results of those receiving poor relief. Just before we stopped for lunch there was the presentation of the Bartholomew Globe to Petr Pridal by Bruce Gittings of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, you can read more details about this in our last blog post.

Detail from Scotland SE, E. Stanford , 1901.
 (c) Cartography Associates
Session 2 introduced the concept of visualising spaces, places and routes between them. Richard Rodger of the University of Edinburgh described and demonstrated the function of the tools created as part of the visualising urban geographies project which help those studying history understand the spatial element. Bruce Gittings (also University of Edinburgh) then presented the work of one of his Msc students, Michal Michalski, which combined a range of different data to depict a multi-disciplinary view of historical Perth. Then came two presentations about mapping route ways. David Simpson spoke about his work on digitising the roads drawn on maps of the highlands created by William Roy as a mid eighteenth century Military Survey of Scotland and their accuracy. Neil Ramsay followed with a presentation about mapping paths from old maps onto modern maps online and encouraging people to go out and explore and enjoy these paths.  The final presentation in this session saw Andrew Janes of The National Archives talking about the newly launched BombSight website, another JISC funded project, which maps the locations of bombs dropped in London during part of the Blitz and will feature a mobile app to link this to your location on the ground. Humphrey Southall then demonstrated the website's functionality.

Name detail on the Eye Peninsula of Lewis
in the Outer Hebrides from the OS of
Scotland, Popular Edition, Stornoway, 1925,
 from A Vision of Britain through Time
After a fortifying tea and biscuit break we entered the third and final session focused on using place-names and gazetteers. Ashley Beamer (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland) spoke about ScotlandsPlaces, their website which brings together place-based datasets from three different partners and which is currently being expanded. Jake King from Ainmean Aite na h-Alba (also known as 'Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland' if, like me, you don't speak Gaelic) spoke about work to extract changing historical place-names from old maps and ways of using a modern map to facilitate access to those historical maps. Another dual presentation by Kirsty Stewart from the University of Edinburgh Library and Neil Mayo from Edina followed as they spoke about a project to digitise the Alexander Carmichael archive and collection and the current phrase to link items within them to places. Paul Ell presented the final paper of the day on the plans of the Digital Exposure of English Place-Names project (also JISC funded) to produce a digital gazetteer using data on variant place names collected by the Survey of English Place Names over the past 80 years.  We then ended the day with a quick thank-you to everyone, especially the speakers. Although we didn't get chance to have a wrap-up discussion as intended, there were many interesting points raised in the questions and comments following each presentation which left us all with plenty to think about.

We'd like to say a big thank-you to everyone for taking the time to come to the conference, as despite being held in the run up to Christmas it was well attended.  Everyone I spoke to during and after the day seemed to enjoy it. We have created a webpage about the conference, it gives the names of the speakers, titles, abstracts and website addresses for all papers plus downloadable PDF copies of both the programme and abstracts.

There is now also a similar page giving information about the previous Working Digitally with Historical Maps conference held in February 2012 at the New York Public Library which launched the initial Old Maps Online website, see here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Petr Přidal awarded Bartholomew Globe by Royal Scottish Geographical Society

Yesterday we held our second conference on Working Digitally with Historical Maps. The first was held at the New York Public Library in February, and saw the original launch of the Old Maps Online web site. This time we were at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, and included the first public demonstration of the new and improved software for the site. Much more about that and the other presentations next time, but for a quick summary of the day take a look at Edina's Go-Geo blog.

One highlight of the day was a short ceremony at which Bruce Gittings, Vice-Chair of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, presented Petr Přidal, founder of Klokan Technologies and principal architect of the Old Maps Online system, with the Bartholomew Globe. Bruce is wearing the suit, and his speech follows.

"Through its publications and awards the Royal Scottish Geographical Society is pleased to acknowledge and promote notable research, development and innovation within the geographical sciences. Amongst these, the Society awards the Bartholomew Globe, which is named in honour of the notable family of Edinburgh cartographers, who worked in Duncan Street just around the corner from the NLS Map Library. This is given in recognition of an exceptional contribution to cartography, mapping and related techniques.

Today we have already heard from someone who has made a very significant and enduring contribution to online mapping, directly enabling the pioneering work undertaken here in the National Library of Scotland, and in the Moravian Library, in relation to making historical mapping available. This was followed by a significant contribution underpinning projects such as Old Maps Online.

This person is Petr Přidal. Hailing from the Czech Republic, where he gained a Masters in Applied Informatics in 2007 and he finalizes PhD in Cartography now, Petr is a software engineer whose career leaped forward through the springboard of the Google Summer of Code in 2008. He has gone on to found his own company in Switzerland - Klokan Technologies - having set himself the mission of empowering people, companies and institutions, to search, publish and enjoy the real value of the maps they own. For those of you who don't know 'Klokan' is his Czech nickname, meaning slightly bizarrely kangaroo. And there is no doubt that his work 'bounced' the traditional field of historical cartography into the 21st century, underpinning many of the projects we are hearing about today.

Petr has been responsible for innovative software tools including GDAL2Tiles, MapTiler (which permits the seamlessly rendering of maps), IIPImage which provides streaming of high-resolution images, geographical search with MapRank and crowd-sourced georeferencing with Georeferencer. He is strongly of the view that software should be free-and-open-source, and this philosophy has enabled the takeup of these valuable solutions in the often poorly-funded library sector.

It is with the greatest of pleasure I would like to present the Bartholomew Globe to Petr Přidal."

Detail from 1917 Parliamentary Boundary Commission map of Edinburgh (from A Vision of Britain through Time)