Focus on the Collections: The National Library of Scotland

Monday, November 12, 2012

The next in our series of more in-depth posts about particular collections is focused on the National Library of Scotland's map collection. The first thing to note about this library is that it has the largest selection of on-line digital maps in the UK with over 44,000 accessible high-resolution images within an online map library in the "Digital resources" section of their institutional website. Of course this is only a small proportion in terms of their total collection of paper maps, but none-the-less this quantity of digital images is in itself a substantial achievement in the digital archives world and identifies the National Library of Scotland as a leading-light in this digital community. The majority of the collection is understandably focussed on Scotland, although there are maps covering the whole of Great Britain included as well.
(c) National Library of Scotland

Within the Library catalogue the maps are grouped by their type and date and are currently divided into those that are georeferenced and those that are not. The maps accessible via Old Maps Online range in date from the early nineteenth Century through into the twentieth Century and all have co-ordinates associated with them. This example is an excerpt from a map entitled 'Lanarkshire, Sheet VI' which  was published in 1865 and shows a much smaller Glasgow than currently exists, but at the same time it also indicates that central areas in the city have been fairly densely populated for over 150 years. The Library offers the user the option to purchase digital images or printouts of its online maps from them, something many users appreciate. More than this though this library offers the user different ways in which they can browse and access their maps through a range of cutting-edge map technologies. These include a zoomable maps and gazetteer KlokanTechnologies Georeferencer software allowing users to help add co-ordinates to yet more maps (more on this in the British Library post), a historical maps API which allows users to incorporate material from the Library into their own websites, overlay technology which lets users place old maps on top of new ones, a project which provides mapping tools for historians and of course they also participate in our Old Maps Online project. This extensive repertoire of software applications highlights the commitment of the National Library of Scotland to making their map material available to users in new and interesting ways. With thanks to Chris Fleet, Senior Map Curator.

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