Maps and views blog

2 posts from October 2012

30 October 2012

Difficult maps

Sometimes the map that's leftover, that no else wants to decipher, is the most valuable to georeference.

In my periodic checks on BL Georeferencer, I've noticed that the more opaque, difficult to discern maps are avoided - and this is entirely understandable! Associating the places that appear on historic maps with their current geographic location on the ground can be straightforward, but not always. Here are a few of those more demanding:

Banbury castle4
This 16th c. sketch required reading the title and description to get any idea of where or what it was - there is no text on the map!

This ca 1600 map of Shopshire is nicely labelled, but requires some interpretation.  Shewsbury is labelled "Salop", an historical name for the city, and scale varies over the map: the loop of the river on which the city is located is of an inordinately large scale, but this emphasises its prime geographic feature making it firmly recognisable.

Thanks to Steven Feldman for taking on these two.

Below are a couple I am less certain will make it...

Numerous maps from the Kensington Turnpike Trust are available, and all seem to be difficult to move. This, sheet 6, has even less information than most!

Estate map
No one has dared attempt this estate map of "the manors of Mincingbury, Abbotsbury and Hoares, in Barley, Hertfordshire." If anyone can figure where this might be located, please help!

What makes the difficult maps especially valuable to georeference is their very obscurity; because most folks will not know what they represent, they are made less useful. Once their location is known, they are able to be found and used as maps. 

My thanks and admiration go out those participants in the BL Georeferncer project that accept the challenging maps!

26 October 2012

Chance to georeference maps online!

It was only this morning that a new set of 700 maps was opened to the public for georeferencing, but this afternoon I am overwhelmed at the interest we've received. Participating individuals examined the scanned maps closely - many of which were not easy to decipher, being of an earlier and more "characterful" sort - and, using an online gazetteer and map, found and assigned their locations. Amazing.

There is plenty left to do. Please give it a try!

Screenshot for instructions
Once a map has been georeferenced with this tool, it may be viewed overlaid on the landscape, and each participant is credited for the number of points they submit.  

But it is not all about immediate gratification and competition! Georeferencing these maps extends their usability and findability, and allows visualisation in new ways using popular geospatial tools. The British Library has tremendous collections of historic maps that, without georeferencing, lack visibility via digital technologies, so we decided to crowd-source the activity. All the data created from this effort will be used for enhanced searching; the results of our initial pilot (thanks to those volunteers) have already been applied in Old Maps Online ( and we have plans for our own uses.