Friday, January 02, 2015

Best Vintage Slippy Maps 2014

This year there has been a number of great examples of vintage historical map collections being digitized and made available online using modern interactive map libraries. Here are a few of my favorite vintage maps released on the web in 2014.


This year the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab released an interactive showcase of the nearly 700 maps in the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. Not only can you view all the maps using the zooming and panning tolls familiar to online maps but the University of Richmond has added a number of interactive features that update these historical maps for the digital age.

The collection includes many famous maps, including Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright's Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. The interactive features allow you to query the maps by location. Mouse-over any of the rates of travel maps and you can view the distance from New York at that location and the estimated historical travel time.


The USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer is a great way to explore the growth of US cities using USGS historical maps.

Click on the modern Esri map of a location and all the available USGS historical topographic maps of the area are shown in a timeline beneath the map. If you select a map from the timeline it will then be overlaid on the modern map. You can therefore work through the timeline of historical maps to observe how towns and cities have developed over time.

The map includes an opacity slide tool so that you can adjust the transparency of the overlaid historical maps. The timeline beneath the map can also be adjusted to increase the size of the map.


Virtuelles Kartenforum 2.0 is a collection of over 2,500 geo-referenced historical German maps.

Using the Virtuelles Kartenforum portal you can search for an historical map by name. You can also search by date range and by location. To search by location you can pan and zoom the map and all the available historical maps within the current map bounds will be listed in the map sidebar.

Select an historic map from the results and you can view it as an overlay on an OpenStreetMap. You can overlay as many historical maps over the modern map as you like and you can control the opacity of each map that you have added.


Another great collection of historical maps has been released by Edinburgh Library. This collection includes historical stories, photos and maps about life in the Scottish capital.

Our Town Stories - Edinburgh is a great showcase for some of Edinburgh Library's collection of historical documents, photographs and maps. My favorite aspect of Our Town is that you can view historical photos of the city actually overlaid on your choice of historical maps of the city.

The map includes a handy time-line feature which allows you to search through the stories, photos and maps by date. Enter a date range on the time-line and all the documents for that period are shown on the map using categorized markers.


Another great collection of historical city maps was History Map: Bath. Bath is a beautiful city, full of beautiful Georgian buildings. Now it also has a beautiful historical map website.

I've seen a lot of historical map websites and History Map: Bath stands out as one of the better designed visualizations of old maps. This Leaflet.js created map allows you to view eight historical maps of the city, ranging from the 1500′s to the 1940′s.

The site allows you to view the historical maps on top of the modern map of Bath using a magnifying glass lens overlay. Alternatively you can switch to view each of the historical maps in full-screen mode. A map inset also provides a little information on each of the historical map overlays.


Helsinki Ennen is another collection of beautiful historical maps and photographs, this time for the Finnish capital. A time-line runs along the bottom of the map. Select a decade from the time-line and you can view vintage photographs of Helsinki from that decade overlaid on a map dating from the era.

Many of the photographs are also displayed side-by-side with the same view as it is seen today, using Google Maps Street View. This allows you to see how the city has changed over the course of the Twentieth Century.


The Seventeenth Century mathematician and philosopher Eilhard Lubinus was commissioned in 1610 to create a map of Pomerania. Lubinus.pl has made the inspired decision to use Lubinus' beautiful Pomerania map as the basis for a guided tour of the region.

Mapy Lubinusa uses the Google Maps API to turn Lubinus' Seventeenth Century map into an interactive guide for visitors to modern day Pomerania. The border of Lubinus' map is decorated with portraits of the 49 towns of Pomerania. Mapy Lubinusa has created nine guided tours, which you can follow on the interactive version of the map, taking in all of the 49 towns featured in the map border.


This year the London School of Economics released a new online interactive map of Charles Booth's Poverty Map of London. The LSE's imaginatively entitled PhoneBooth application is an interactive version of Booth's poverty map of London.

Booth's map is overlaid on top of the modern OpenStreetMap of London. It includes a slide control so that you can adjust the opacity of Booth's map and view the modern street map of London beneath Booth's 19th Century poverty map. PhoneBooth also includes a map of the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010. This enables you to compare Booth's 19th Century poverty map with the current social conditions of Londoners on a street by street basis.


In the 19th Century Govan in Scotland was one of the world's leading ship-building centers. Like many dockland centers Govan became an area popular with immigrants. The number of foreign ships coming into Govan,  coupled with the areas high employment, meant that Govan proved attractive to many immigrants.

Govan Scotlands's Melting Pot is a fascinating Google Map visualizing the home addresses of foreign born individuals in Govan, using data from the 1881 census and an historical map overlay. Using the map it is possible to view the areas in Govan where immigrants lived. You can even filter the results by nationality so that you can find out where different nationalities liked to live.


Mapire is a Google Map interface that allows you to explore historical maps of the Habsburg Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The historical maps from the Second Military Survey (1806–1869) cover a huge area of Europe, from Austria in the west to Romania in the east.

Using Mapire it is possible to view maps from the Second Military Survey covering the whole of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The map includes quick links to different regions within the Empire and a handy transparency tool, that allows you to adjust the opacity of the historical map overlays.

It is also possible to view the historical maps in 3d, using the Google Earth plug-in. The Google Earth view allows you to explore the maps overlaid on the 3d terrain of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
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