Friday, December 7, 2012

New Resource, Old Maps

The Clark Library holds more than 370,000 maps in our collection, along with about 10,000 atlases and reference works. Despite this amazing number, patrons sometimes ask for maps that are not part of our collection, or they may not be able to visit the Clark in person. In these cases, outside digital resources may fill the gap. One of the most helpful, comprehensive sources of this kind is Old Maps Online.

The Old Maps Online portal brings together historical maps from library collections around the world, including the Harvard Map Collection; the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales; and the New York Public Library Map Division. The project was created through a collaboration between The Great Britain Historical GIS Project and Klokan Technologies GmbH of Switzerland with funding from the UK’s Joint Information Service Committee. Because the portal is free to use and does not require registration, it’s easy to begin searching the vast collections right away.

The search for maps is aided by an interface that allows users the option not only to type in the content they’re looking for, but also the ability to search by zooming in on a present-day Google map to find items in the collections linked to that geographic location.

Searching Old Maps Online


The historical maps that are part of the collection span the centuries, and include everything from boundary and political maps to estate maps and admiralty sea charts. Metadata for each digitized map identifies the collection that it is a part of, as well as information about the location, creator, date of publication, and other notes.

Because it pools the resources of many of the world’s premiere map collections, a visit to the Old Maps Online portal is like taking a trip to many libraries at once, all with a few clicks of a mouse. It may be the place to turn for that hard-to-find map you’re searching for.