New ‘Old Maps Online’ project funded

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) have awarded a grant of £139,900 as part of their JISC Content Programme for 2011-13 for a new project called Old Maps Online: Finding and referencing historical mapping as a platform for research and teaching, which runs for fifteen months from November 2011.

Working together the GB Historical GIS project team, based at the University of Portsmouth, and Klokan Technologies GmbH will be creating a 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 beginning with the MapRank Search interface already developed for the David Rumsey Collection in the US by Klokan Technologies GmbH and developing from there.

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 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 and London in February 2012.

That first version will probably be limited to the Rumsey Collection, the National Library of Scotland and the Vision of Britain map collection, 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.

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 relevant page on the JISC website.

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