January 24, 2022

Crowdsourcing the Past – Georeferencing Website Puts Historic Maps in their Place

From The British Library:

The British Library is calling on members of the public to help in a digital quest to reveal the hidden context of historic maps.

800 items have been selected for the Georeferencer Project from the British Library’s collection of over 4.5 million maps. The georeferencing interface enables people to plot locations on historic maps by comparing a digitised image with present-day online maps.


The last time the British Library undertook such a project the response from the public was remarkable, with 708 maps completed in less than one week. Volunteers who take part in this georeferencing project will have their name attached to each tag so they will be able to chart their progress and see what they have contributed to the overall project. When the project is completed the most prolific georeferencer will be announced by the British Library.

“This project brings together people’s passion for maps and history with the latest online crowdsourcing tools,” says Kimberly Kowal, Lead Curator of Digital Mapping at the British Library. “Although many locations have changed significantly over the centuries, sometimes almost beyond recognition, only a handful of common features – street intersections, buildings or some natural features – are necessary to link the past with the present.”


As a result of these previous successful rounds of public crowdsourcing, those maps are now spatially enabled, allowing users to search and navigate maps online. Maps from previous rounds are accessible through the Library’s Old Maps Online portal, a JISC-funded effort containing online historic maps from some of the best map collections worldwide. It is hoped that people will be as responsive on this occasion allowing both the British Library and the public to discover how the world around us has developed.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.