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An old map that is used in several places across Wikimedia projects.
How it could work

Wikimaps is a proposed project to make more use of old maps on Wikimedia Commons.


Wikimedia Commons currently contains quite a few old maps. Some maps are used at Wikipedia (or one of the other projects) and others just sit on our servers. Several GLAM partners are interested in sharing their digital collection of old maps. It would be nice to get more of these maps used.


At the moment I know of several examples of nice reuse of old maps:

  • NYPL Map Warper: A tool developed by the New York Public Library to make their collection of old maps more accessible. Users are encouraged to sign up and help rectify old maps on the current map. This tool was build using open source software: OpenStreetMap and OpenLayers.
  • WatWasWaar: is a national platform for disclosing historical-geographical information on the Netherlands to a wider audience. The site has several search vectors: Where (location), what (typology), when (time) and which (institute). The site has a nice interface to find things using these vectors. The site doesn't seem to have any user contributed content and the software doesn't seem to be open source. Site is operated by a consortium.
  • A collection of old maps of the Netherlands on top of the current maps. It says beta, but development seems to be stalled since 2008. The site is operated by the Dutch kadaster (governement organisation which keeps track of who owns the ground).
  • : Some people from the UK have scanned old out-of-copyright paper Ordnance Survey maps and rectified them into a browsable slippy map.
  • look at the same map: An old one and a new one


  • Wikimaps should use images from Wikimedia Commons
  • Wikimaps should only use free and open source software
  • Wikimaps should use OpenStreetMap as base map
  • It should be possible for users to rectify old maps onto the base map
  • It should be possible for users to add the where to the map
  • It should be possible for users to add the what to the map
  • It should be possible for users to add the when to the map
  • It should be possible for users to add the source to the map
  • Wikimaps should be able to show both rectified and not yet rectified maps
  • Wikimaps should be able to show one or multiple maps at the same time
  • Wikimaps should be easy to search and select


Wikimaps is a working title. The name might change in the future. The Wikimedia Foundation does own the domain so that's available. At this point this is just a proposal. I love old maps, but I don't really have the time to pick up yet another project. I hope someone else likes this idea and is willing to pick this up.


  • Get a labs node to break with a public ip
  • Install the same software base as mapwarper with Commons as the image store backend
  • Open up with local user accounts

We need to have Aude, Maarten and preferable Tim from Mapwarper on board to quickly get a good poc. Our proof of concept is now ready

See also[edit]