FP7: Old Maps Knowledge for Decison-Making Processes with the Use of Digital Libraries

FP7 Grant Proposal


Old maps are very visually attractive for the general public but they also hold very valuable information for many scientific disciplines, as well as in the arts and humanities. Historians, archeologists, climatologists, glaciologists and other scientists are using old maps for their research. Very often, historical documents are used for tracking environmental and climate changes. Examples of typical use are tasks related to human impact on the forest and rainforest cover, reforestration, assessment of soil erosion processes, glacier length fluctuation measurements, sea-level changes, reclamation and flooding of coastal environments, hydro-electric projects and resettlements schemes, etc. Old maps are not only beautiful but also necessary for this kind of research.
In addition, through their unique ability to graphically illustrate change through time, old maps are a key tools for examining many subjects relating to human history, including industrial developments, infrastructure projects (railways, roads, canals, and air travel), socio-economic change, equality and development. Through a better understanding of these processes, old maps are useful for numerous purposes, including the better planning of public services and for future social and economic development. The ability to use maps for these purposes is critically underutilised in the current Internet environment.

Main idea:

Geographical Search (MapRank Search)

The target is to provide a free service to all EU citizens: Online Geographical Search for Scanned Maps with a user-friendly web 2.0 interface for search in online map collections which are available in libraries, archives and private holdings in Europe or elsewhere. The system allows selection of the area of interest, selection on the time range and filtering with the text search.
System will be scalable, able to handle big amount of visitors and able to index millions of geographical documents without problems and without slowdown. It is based around high-quality geographical ranking included in the MapRank indexing.

This system of search is significantly improved over the existing systems such as those developed in DigMap.eu  project (very bad geographical ranking for map collections) or Alexandria Digital Library (not scalable).

Georeferencing Tool (Georeferencer.org)

We will also develop a robust version of Online Georeferencing Tool, prototype of which is available on Georeferencer.org. This tool is usable by librarians and general public to assign the georeference to the scanned maps in a very user friendly and entertaining way. It will support most of the existing online publishing techniques used for scanned maps (MrSID, DjVu, Zoomify, DeepZoom, IIPImage, ...) and it will be great for collaborative georeference of almost any images of maps which are currently available on the Internet. 

Every map is linked from an automatically generated OGC KML metadata for 3D visualization in viewers like Google Earth. This allows synthesizing of different maps from different periods and from variable online locations.

The georeferencing service will contain the support for clipping, and merging of individual maps into a composites and even generation of seamless maps from several map sheets.
The existing georeferencing tool is going to be significantly improved, it will become more scalable and have much more user-friendly interface. It will support the map series and local coordinate systems and allow georeferencing against existing national WMS base maps.

As a result of the interface we will be able to rectify the maps, so the remote scanned maps can be provided as OGC WMS service, as tiles in the OGC WMTS format for overlaying popular online maps as Google Maps, Bing Maps or OpenStreetMap.

Note: this is problematic - too much computing power is necessary... So we can alternatively provide an open-source server software which can by used by institutions and which will collaborate with our online georeferencing service.

The Georeferencer will contain image similarity analysis techniques - to detect duplicate scans of the same physical map and to detect variants of the same map. Think of a service similar to TinEye: http://www.tineye.com/search/c45fa33e0ded9a979b95395ec4daf1ba045e19e4?page=300
Masaryk university has experiences with similar systems: http://mufin.fi.muni.cz/tiki-index.php?page_ref_id=14

Cartometric accuracy analysis based on MapAnalyst open-source software. Protype: http://oldmapsonline.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/mapanalyst/rasterdemo/index.html

We need to improve (or install an alternative) to the existing open source system SpatialReference.org which is an online interface to the EPSG database - the database with publicly used coordinate systems.

We need to run our own version of OpenStreetMap.org (with better styling - as a base map for georeferencer) and probably also Geonames.org services - tuned for our own purposes. Our modifications are going to be submitted back to the original projects...

Map Series & Cataloguing of Maps

Special attention is going to be given to the Map Series and Map Indexes. We will create an online collaborative database of map indexes - target is to define a unique identifier for a map index - which can be used for the cataloguing purposes !!! as well (in existing DublinCore and MARC21 based library systems).
Any librarian is going to be allowed to upload a scanned paper map index, digitize the map sheets borders in the webbrowser and create necessary metadata structurure for the map serie. Immediately it is going to be possible to create a metadata records for such a serie - visually on top of the uploaded  picture of the map index.

Later on this map index can be improved by a cartographer or geographer - he can assign correct coordinate system and map projection and set the corners of the sheets numerically in the given spatial reference system (EPSG).

Our prototype for the map index interaction functionality: http://www.staremapy.cz/mapindex/scotland_one_inch_popular.html - going to be used for cataloguing. For big indexes WMS/WFS necessary. 

Open-Source Software for Publishing Scanned Maps 

We will provide tutorials for use of the Open-Source software for publishing of the scanned maps.
We will futher improve the available high-quality open-source tools for publishing of the scanned maps and other documents.

Mainly: OpenJPEG JPEG2000 open-source implementation - improvement and related IIPImage coding (100% open-source implementation of JPEG2000 decoders and encoders).

CUDA port of Proj.4 and GDAL warping code to significantly speed-up (up to 200x) all open-source transformation with the hardware acceleration available on the latest graphic cards (it is going to be usable in the MapServer for example).

Important note

The core online tools are based on the prototypes developed in the OldMapsOnline.org project and on prototypes of the Klokan Technologies GmbH company.
All the developed services are going to be available for free for non-commercial educational use. Fees charged for commercial use of the tools and closer integration with external websites via provided API are going to cover the expenses necessary to support the maintenance of the online service and to provide guarantee of the sustainability of the developed service - especially after the European grant is over.

We want to deliver a system which is practically used by millions of people and running even after this project is finished! Our result is a sustainable and by general public usable online service!

Project partners

Project manager:

Masaryk University


Masaryk University, Faculty of Science, Department of Geography (project coordinator)
Project leader: Prof. RNDr. Milan Konečný, CSc.
<konecny at ics dot muni dot cz>, +420 549 495 135

Legal Name: Masarykova Univerzita
Second-largest public university in the Czech Republic. Department of Geography of the Faculty of Science is one of the largest university geographical institutions in the country.

Moravian Library in Brno, Kounicova 65a, 60187 Brno, Czech Republic
Deputy Director: Ing. Petr Zabicka
<zabak at mzk dot cz>, +420 541 646 115 

Legal name: Moravská zemská knihovna v Brně
Research institution and a legal deposit library with a non-profit status (official documents and informative translation).

Lead developer
Mgr. Petr Pridal <klokan at klokan dot cz> (Curriculum Vitae)
+41 79 8630 860, +420 777 554689

Specialization: Web technologies, Mapping, Python, Open-Source, Digital libraries.
Cooperation on development of open-source projects (GDAL, OpenLayers,...)

Experiences with similar development

We have proven experience in the development of web-applications related to maps, and we have developed several prototypes for the functionality we are proposing in this grant. We are working actively with open-source sotware for processing old maps, as can be seen from our project blog.

Some of our mashups are also included in the official Google Maps API Demo Gallery: Google Maps Tile Bounds and Coordinates and Opacity Control.

The development of the MapTiler application brought us new ideas and experience necessary for this proposed grant. MapTiler is an advanced open-source application for generating overlay tiles for Google Maps, Google Earth and other interactive web mapping applications. More info is on the project website:

MapTiler is a GUI for the GDAL2Tiles utility we developed. This tool was already used  by several institutions and individuals all over the world for publishing Google Earth overlays and generating tiles from existing geodata files.

Users are, for example, people from European Commission Joint Research Center, US Forrest Service, French Geological Survey (BRGM) and several commercial companies...

The National Library of Scotland is now publishing with this tool a collection of old Ordnance Survey maps at the website:

We acquired a good knowledge of map tile publishing for both Google Maps and Google Earth (KML SuperOverlay). We are also familiar with cartographic map projections, spatial reference systems and we have knowledge related to metadata processing (MARC21, OAI-PMH, ..).

Resources covered by this grant

Google App Engine: extended limit for traffic for developed projects, if necessary.

Full-time employment of the project manager for the period of the grant.

Funds for contract-based help with component development, testing, translation and with graphical design and usability improvements and reports from third-parties. Traveling costs for visiting collection partners.

Hardware: one powerful SMP rack-based server for the warping server hosting (tool#3), and for storing cache of the warped tiles.

Project maintainance after the grant

Most of the tools will be hosted on Google App Engine, which will reduce the after development mainteinance to minimum. Still we have a grant till 2011 which will cover necessary work on the tools and probably also improvements of results after this grant is finished.

Related projects

Moravian Library Project: OldMapsOnline.org

This project allowed specification of the needs from the library side and technical possibilities on the other side. The FP7 funding would allow the development of the tools suggested by OldMapsOnline and allow to dramatically improve the services available to digital library users. 

But there is always a limit for the processed raster size, usually you must upload your raster data to their servers, they don't share the ground control points with the community nor is it possible to specify the original map projection and coordinate system.

OpenSource projects we will use: Python, Django, GDAL, MapServer, MapTiler

Standards used for project development: OGC KML, SiteMap.xml, OGC WMS, OSGeo TMS, DublinCore, XML

Schedule with the key milestones

Final evaluation