Oldmaps online

screenshot: georeferencer

screenshot: map from Ryhiner collection in oldmapsonline

Integrate collections of historical Swiss maps into the open platform www.oldmapsonline.org. At least the two collections Rhyiner (UB Bern) and manuscript maps from Zentralbibliothek Zurich. Pilot for georeferencing maps from a library (ZBZ). Second goal: to load old maps into a georefencing system and create a competition for public. For the hackathon maps and metadata will be integrated in the mentioned platform. At the moment the legal status of metadata from Swiss libraries is not yet clear and only a few maps are in public domain (collection Ryhiner at UB Bern). Another goal is to create a register of historical maps from Swiss collections.



  • Peter Pridal, Günter Hipler, Rudolf Mumenthaler

Lessons Learnt

We encountered several obstacles:

  • Legal aspects: libraries are still reluctant to publish data and even metadata under an open licence. We had the permission by the University Library Berne that published the old maps collection unter public domain. But we were not sure about the use of metadata. Finally we asked for permission and got it by the library's director. Other (or nearly most) works are published under restricted conditions, especially in the platforms e-rara and e-manuscripta.
  • Technical aspects: data are usually kept in silos: databases, web services that keep the access to the files closed. It was even not easy to get reasonable thumbnails. ETH library provided an interface for the access to its bibliografic metadata, but the limited access was not enough for our use: some metadata were not included.

Lesson learnt:

  • Libraries must declare that their metadata are published under a CC-0 license to make reuse possible and clear. This is important also for other projects (like Swissbib linked).
  • Libraries, archives and museums with historical holdings must decide if they want to spread data for a wide usage in order to support cultural and scientific projects. The best framework would be a Open Data Policy for publically financed institutions.
  • How can this contribution to the society be measured? Usually libraries deliver statistics for the usage of their materials to their university or administration. So also these administrations have to rethink: not downloads from the library's website or visits in the reading room are relevant, but the contribution to works in science and culture…
  • Web services like e-rara.ch, e-manuscripta.ch and others should support open formats and APIs.