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Do you like old maps and historic places? If so, why not give our Georeferencer tool a try? It lets you place historic maps over the latest maps so you can compare the past with the present. Your contribution to this project will help the British Library make its maps fully searchable and viewable.
Over 67000 maps from the British Library collections have already been georeferenced. Help us identify accurate locations for the historic maps in the latest release! Bear in mind that some places have changed significantly or disappeared completely, creating an exciting puzzle that requires detective work.
Georeferencing involves assigning points on a map image to corresponding geographical coordinates. It links the map to its spatial location on the ground using universal geographic standards (latitude / longitude).
You can follow the progress of georeferencing as a whole on this bar:
The British Library began a project to crowdsource the georeferencing of its scanned historic mapping in 2011 by partnering with Klokan Technologies to customise its online georeferencing tool. Over more than a decade a range of different maps have been added to the Georeferencer including:
- Maps from George III’s Topographical Collection including atlases and albums of views, plans, diagrams, reports and surveys, produced between 1550 and 1820.
- 1,277 maps from our War Office Archive. These military intelligence maps relate to Eastern Africa, particularly modern-day Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somaliland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and parts of South Africa. The British Library has catalogued, conserved and digitised the archive with generous funding from the Indigo Trust.
- 50,000 identified from amongst the illustrations extracted from books digitised by Microsoft and posted to Flickr Commons as Public Domain images. The task of identifying maps from these 19th-century books published in Europe was entirely done by volunteers, via an online campaign with substantial support from Wikimedia UK. The tagging was initiated with a Maps Tag-a-Thon event at the British Library in November 2014, and continued online until completion in January 2015.
- the Library’s collection of British and Irish first-edition Chas E Goad Co. fire insurance plans, completed in January 2014, which provides detailed information about buildings, land use and urban design at the turn of the twentieth century (1886-1930). This included over 2,500 plans covering 53 towns, cities and ports.
- Two smaller map collections, one related to Britain and the American Civil War, and the other a selection of WWI maps.
- Earlier releases included a variety of maps dating from as early as the 16th century up to the twentieth century. Initially, two well-known British collections were released: The Ordnance Surveyors’ Drawings, the Crace Collection of maps of London, followed by selections from King George III’s Topographical Collection and a selection of maps contained within 16th and 17th century manuscripts.
- Maps of a modern vintage represented the themes of car, rail and air transport, along with topographic and military mapping. This has resulted in a well-rounded representation of mapping of the UK and other regions of the world.
The history of the georeferencing project can be found on the BL maps blog.
Georeferencing adds location data to map images, making them geographically searchable and offering the potential for visualisation and analysis using geospatial tools. Georeferenced maps are added to Old Maps Online, which provides a geographic search interface to historic maps from numerous collections online.
Take a look at the BL Georeferencer interactive map to explore all our georeferenced maps so far.
We are grateful to all the participants who generously contributed their time.
Special thanks are extended to the expert panel of Reviewers, whose work to ensure the high quality of results was substantial. The appointed BL Georeferencer Reviewers are:
- Chris Austin
- Susan Major
- Maurice Nicholson
- Mark Setrem
- Ian Pritchard
- Kathryn Snow
If you have any queries about this project please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For articles on the the British Library Georeferencer and georeferencing in libraries see: