Data-driven decisions

How to transform 200 years of topographic maps

Sep 20, 2016

It isn’t possible to travel back in time – however, an impressive web app showcasing the modern history of Dutch topographic maps manages to crack open a curtain to the past just a little.

Developed by Netherlands cadastre, land registry and mapping agency Kadaster, the Time Travel 200 Years of Topography web map app takes a static item common to every country in the world and extends its accessibility – and impact – by creating a rolling slideshow that documents the development of a kingdom.

With 200 maps of the Netherlands virtually stitched together by a timeline slider, it’s easy to monitor the changing dynamics within Dutch borders – the urban developments and shifting geographical boundaries highlighting political and scientific forces at work.

And on a more superficial level, many of the maps are standalone pieces of art, with the sketching, colours and styles used providing a glimpse at cartographic trends of particular eras.

Because the app works so fluidly, and has a nice, basic interface that allows for easy interaction, you could be forgiven for thinking the work that’s gone into designing the technical backend would have been more or less straightforward.

Don’t be fooled.

The scanned older maps have all been precisely georeferenced, a process which allocates current spatial coordinates to these dated illustrations.

Without this, there’d be disconnect between the old and new, and geographic features would move around between time periods.

Because of this, interference from scale, rotation and projection variation has been eliminated.

To make all this accessible online, the georeferenced map images were then combined into mosaic datasets – unique online ‘catalogues’ of image data – to ensure peak performance and scalability for web users.

But don’t let me just tell you about it; check out the maps for yourself.


And sure – this web app is merely a nice to have. But the technology and processes behind it can be used for land management across a range of sectors, including agribusiness, environmental management and defence.

Introducing today’s topography – connecting the past and present to guarantee greater awareness for the future.

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About the author

Ben Doyle

Contributor

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