Old Maps Online - so what?

Friday, November 02, 2012

JISC, who funded Old Maps Online, have requested that we review the success of our project, and how it can be sustained. Here we explore the ways our project has added value.

First and foremost we think we have achieved what we set out to do: creating an online search facility which is easy to use, is full of useful content and links to a wide variety of host institutions. There are a number of different ways we consider the project unique in its success;
  • We have created and implemented new MapRank Search software suitable for hosting material from a myriad of institutions
  • We have persuaded a range of different digital map libraries from around the world to participate
  • We have included maps covering all parts of the whole world
  • We have helped some UK libraries add geographical metadata to their digital map images
  • We have encouraged all libraries holding maps to think about their metadata in a geographical context
  • We have provided a single entry point for searching maps of the same geographical location without the need to know which library holds the actual map
  • We have clustered metadata for use in a new way
Of course some of our success is hard to quantify precisely because we are providing an open-access resource. We can look at web usage analysis and count numbers using the website. We can report the stir of positive interest we created when we launched back in February on social networking sites such as Twitter. We can hypothesize that the involvement of so many different host institutions is because we are offering a service which is both open-access for users and free to participate for contributors.

However, we feel that even more than that we have started to influence how libraries think about their geographical holdings. Institutions are beginning to consider how geographical content within their collections can best be made findable and searchable. They are raising questions about the best way to make this content available to their users. Many more institutions have contacted us than are currently contributing saying they would have liked to participate, but that their material as yet does not have a geographical element to its metadata and unfortunately for both them and us it will not be added in time to be included before the end of the current funding for Old Maps Online.

We have proposed a concept and proved it works -- but  this is just one way in which enriched metadata can be used in new ways to simplify online searching.
Tags: MapRank Search, open access, metadata