[Talk-GB] Old maps on Wikimedia Commons

Andy Mabbett andy at pigsonthewing.org.uk
Tue Dec 5 13:46:15 UTC 2017

Those of you with a love of old maps may be interested in this
initiative, on Wikimedia Commons:


to categorise maps and building plans from out-of-copyright works
scanned by the British Library.

A more length explanation, posted on Facebook by my friend James Heald, says:

<start quote>

People may remember that three years ago we found and tagged over
50,000 maps and plans in the million images uploaded to Flickr by the
British Library. Since then, over half the maps have now been
georeferenced on the BL's Georeferencer. It would be good to start
getting some of the maps uploaded to WikiCommons. Starting with the UK
I've therefore created pages for a dozen proposed initial batches to


giving current-best proposed identifications, filenames and categorisations,
There's also a proposed general project strategy page:


I'd really appreciate any thoughts or feedback that people have on
these -- I feel that I've been slightly finding my way in the dark, so
it would be good to know if people feel this is on the right track,
and/or if there are any ideas or suggestions that come to mind. There
are also some specific areas where any help would be really

* Map titles. Currently there are titles entered on the BL
Georeferencer for only about half of the georeferenced maps. (It was
an optional stage, easy to miss out). It would be incredibly helpful
if we could start filling in the ones that are missing. These are
currently shown as pink highlighted links on the batch pages. Note
that it's also necessary to make a minor edit on the map to get the
Georeferencer to pass the update to its central spreadsheet -- in some
cases there /is/ a title, but it never got reflected to the central
list for this reason, because there's not been any subsequent edit to
the map. I'll try to update the batch pages at least once a day, to
track progress.

* More georeferencing. At the moment maps from UK-related books are
about 80% georeferenced. But the average for most places is only about
50%. So if there's a part of the world you would like to see
fast-tracked into the next lot of batches, finishing the
georeferencing for more of the maps from there would be really
helpful. For links and latest progress, see:


* Hierarchies and category schemes. The batching and categorisation is
based on the hierarchical region-by-region analyses in this category:


But these are based on modern countries and regions, returned by OSM's
Nominatim service. It would be really valuable to have input from
people who have a better knowledge of the countries and their
histories, to get a better idea of what subdivisions would make best
sense for categories and at what levels to stop subdividing), given
also that the maps are mostly 19th century, so there may also be
historic subdivisions which are quite different to current ones; what
towns and cities should be pulled out for their own categories of old
maps and plans; whether there are particular things it is worth trying
to identify and pull out by bounding box; etc.

* Map description pages on Commons. I am thinking the uploads to
Commons should use the "Map" description template. But I want to make
sure I will be using it properly. So I've gone through the template
field-by-field at
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template_talk:Map… with questions
to see if I'm on track. In particular, I've put some questions there
about e.g. the right way to use "map location" when the subject of the
map may be quite complex, such as showing a part of a river in a
particular county; "map date"; proper use of "title" vs "description";
"map type"; etc. -- and it would just be generally good if somebody
could sanity-check what I'm proposing to do, well before the start of
any uploading. I've also suggested adding quite a few further fields
to the template, for example "book-title", "volume", "page",
"publication-place", "book-author", "book-collaborator",
"scan-resolution", "zoom-level". Would all of these be acceptable?
Plus it would also be nice to make a much more prominent link to the
BL Georeferencer. Feedback on any or all of the above would be very

At the end of the day they are only scans from books, rather than more
luxury stand-alone maps. But there is still a lot here that I think
would be very useful to have on WikiCommons, so I am very interested
to know what people think.

<End quote>

Andy Mabbett

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