Author Archives: Susanna Ånäs

Maps at the Zürich hackathon

The Wikimedia Hackathon was held in Zürich this year with a focus on maps. As a conclusion, it seems maps will be an integral part of what Wikimedia is, as soon as everything presented is taken into use.

Erik Möller (Wikimedia Foundation) envisions that will be a new project, with a community and repository of it’s own. The space could host tools for creating maps as well as geographic data in all it’s forms.

The Maps namespace

Jon Robson (WMF Engineering, web), Katie Filbert (WMDE, Wikidata) and Derk-Jan Hartman created a MediaWiki extension for maps. It introduces a Map namespace where data for the map is stored in raw GeoJSON and can be edited via a JavaScript map editor interface. It also allows the inclusion of maps in wiki articles via a template.

Näyttökuva 2014-5-19 kello 8.26.23The demo:
The codebase:

Wikimedia tiles

Having Wikimedia’s own tileserver has finally moved forward. Kai Krueger, Tim Alder and Alexandros Kosiaris (WMF, Engineering, operations) have worked to set up a test environment, that shows the base map in several languages. The styles priority list is currently: Mapnik-default, -nolabels, hikebike, black&white, WikiMiniAtlas, multilingual map and hillshading.

Vector rendering is high on the wish list. It would be ideal for historical maps, as there is an infinite number of snapshots of history which should be rendered as tiles. I would not like to be the one who curates important dates!


Our project Wikimaps might need a new name. When we move under a umbrella, we become the Old maps project, the OpenHistoricalMap counterpart in the Wikiworld and the Wikimaps Gazetteer project.

Using the Maps namespace for old maps

In our Old Wikimaps project a key use case for the new Maps extension is the display of the old map layered on top of the current map. It can be used on the map file page on Commons or in the upload wizard, with an interface for positioning the old map on the current map. In this example, the interface is a collection of items from the iD editor for OSM, the Maptcha project and the Wikimedia styles.

Template:Map for map metadata

André Costa (WMSE) worked to finish the first version of the Template:Map, that we want to include in the GWToolset as well as the Upload Wizard. We are still open to influences: Please give feedback! Wikidata will soon take over handling Wikimedia Commons metadata, and these metadata templates will become obsolete. But in the meanwhile, we will upload hundreds of maps with their help and learn about maps metadata.

The information has different layers:

  1. Image data that is similar to data about any image.
  2. Publication and copyright: the cartographer, publisher, printer etc.
  3. Geographic: point or bounding box, place names, time, scale etc.
  4. Object in the archive: materials used, ID, institution data etc.

Wikimaps workflow: Request for Comments

Wikimaps project flowchart

Many suggested that we formulate the Wikimaps workflow into an RfC. Please share your thoughts about this draft, and prepare to discuss about the actual document. (link to be added)

Wikimaps Atlas

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The Wikimaps Atlas team is half way through their individual engagement grant. They are producing a scripting environment to recreate all Wikipedia hand-made maps.

Hackathon - Zürich - 2014 - 5

The Wikimaps Atlas team Arun Ganesh (left) and Hugo Lopez (sitting) discussing with Jakub Kaniewsky. CC-BY-SA 3.0 Pakeha, Wikimedia Commons

Bridging between projects

A wealth of maps projects were presented:

Beat Esterman (WMCH) rectified old Zürich maps and provided us with a lot of valuable user testing with the Warper.

Simone Cortesi (WMIT) also had a set of Italian maps to rectify.


Petr Pridal from Klokantech produces a georeferencing environment that is used by many memory institutions and the map portal OldMapsOnline. Jakub Kaniewsky has produced Sharemap, a toolset for working with maps, that also features map rectification. We discussed the interoperability of data produced in these environments.

Tim Alder has created a map view for showing items in specific classes in Wikidata. See the tool in:

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Cultural heritage items in Wikidata plotted on a map. Wikidata superclasses by Tim Alder.

The Reasonator is a creation by Magnus Manske, an original creator of MediaWiki. It is an environment to test Wikidata capabilities that are not yet in production. The latest addition to the toolpack has been the display of Wikidata items within a certain radius from a point on the map. You can follow the new features in Reasonator and Wikidata in Gerard Meijssen’s blog Words and What Not.

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Reasonator showing all Wikidata entries within a radius from a coordinate point.

Collaboration between Wikimedia and OpenStreetMap

Simon Poole, the chair of OpenStreetMap Foundation attended the hackathon, and lead a group of people on a tour around Zürich. It was a mapping party: We collected house numbers by sneaking around houses, marked forgotten details and corrected errors made by ignorant German mappers!

There were many pressing topics to be discussed between OSM and Wikimedia, and the presence of the new ED of the Wikimedia Foundation Lila Tretikov made the event feel like the Davos of open knowledge.

Hackathon - Zürich - 2014 - Lydia Pintscher and Lila Tretikov

Lydia Pintscher, Product Manager for Wikidata and Lila Tretikov, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation getting familiar with data issues. CC-BY-SA 3.0 Ludovic P. Wikimedia Commons

The most important issue is to solve the incompatibility in licensing between the Wikimedia and the OpenStreetMap projects. Even if it is possible to combine the projects through skillful linking, it is not easy for a volunteer to navigate the differences. We are excited to see the enthusiasm in both projects to create something great together and wait to see what the legal teams in the organizations will come up with.

Tracking crossover projects

Quim Gil (WMF, Engineering community) has created a page to collect crossover projects between Wikimedia and OpenStreetMap. A Wikimedia Tech Talk around maps is also planned.

More maps, different maps

Using OSM data on a map in Wikipedia is only one of the many use cases that are out there. We also have the OpenHistoricalMap database to map to Wikimedia data. Through weighing several options, we promote the solution where the OHM database is kept separate from Wikidata, and items are mapped against each other only when needed. Geographic contributions are made to the OHM database and further content in Wikidata. If this sounds obscure, let’s discuss more in the RfC!!

Tim Alder outlined a new proposal to store “ephemeral geodata” in an instance of the OSM toolstack, the Open-Wikidata-map. This means fuzzy features such as climate regions, habitats of animals and thematic features of all kinds. Mikel Maron has proposed such infrastructure in a recent talk in SotMUS OpenStreetMap as Infrastructure.

The OpenSeaMap is another specialized geo database, that could be linked across to Wikipedia articles about seas, rivers, water sports and shipping affairs.

More proposals

Tim Alder also proposed to initiate a network of local OSM/Wikimedia ambassadors in as many countries as possible. They could create projects and organize events, and work in collaboration with the forthcoming Maps & Geo Team at Wikimedia Foundation.

The authentication across projects through OAuth should be put into action.

Simon Poole mentioned the idea to collect aerial imagery, both user-generated and open data. Tim Alder reminded it would be a natural continuation after WMDE’s support for OpenGeoServer.

Andy Mabbett suggested the use of crowdsourcing games and bots for adding Wikipedia links to OpenStreetMap objects.

Going beyond maps

Dan Andreescu (WMF Analytics) worked on a visualization framework that overlaps a bit with the Maps namespace. Have a look at the famous Napoleon flow map by Charles Joseph Minard created by the extension!

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Click the image for the original visualization

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Discussion page about open datasets

Open data worldsThe event gathered many open data activists, and there were many discussions about how and where to store open data within the Wikimedia family. David Cuenca created a page to answer (or – in fact – ask) some of those questions.

Wikimedia Hackathon Zürich 2014 Contributions

Microcontributions, attracting new editors. Thiemo Mättig CC-BY-SA 3.0

Wikimaps Nordic kickoff

It was a great start for a journey into the maps and places of the 5 countries: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Estonia. The kickoff event had gathered representatives from all of the countries.

The support from the Nordic Culture Fund shows the willingness that there is to make cultural heritage widely digitally available in the participatory Commons. The Finnish Institute in London also showed continuing interest in activities of open culture, following the participation in the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki in 2012.

The presentations

Our speaker guests showed examples of what can be done with maps, data and wikimedians:

Laurence Penney presents one of his strip-map tresure, the Tabula Peutingeriana before and after MapWarper.

Laurence Penney shows a strip-map treasure, the Tabula Peutingeriana, before and after MapWarper.

Tim Waters (UK), the creator of the MapWarper for New York Public Library, showed the many projects which the MapWarper has made possible. From rectifying maps for disaster relief mapping to making possible to trace the contours of New York buildings. The Wikimaps Warper has already been set up to work with the maps in Wikimedia Commons, and work will continue with more integration and interface design.

Old GLAMs meeting young Wikimedia. Which one is which?

Old GLAMs meeting young Wikimedia. Which one is which?

Hay Kranen (NL) reported about his experiences and thoughts as the first Dutch wikimedian-in-residence, working in the KB Library and National Archives in the Netherlands. He cited a research that showed that the most used information source is Wikipedia for 52% of the Dutch population, but the books and libraries are primary to only 1%! It makes sense to try to make available the riches of the libraries and archives in the world’s most visited encyclopedia.

Nordic wikimedians (Jan Ainali and André Costa from Sweden, Jon Harald Søby from Norway, Henrik Sørensen and Michael Andersen from Denmark and Vahur Puik and Raul Veede from Estonia) reported the work we have been preparing with the GLAMs in the partnering countries. We are expecting both volunteer projects and activities with many GLAM institutions.

Danmark set fra luften

Danmark set fra luften

We then had interesting presentations from our Finnish network:


Istvan Kecskemeti from the National Archives of Finland outlined how the treasures of the archive are unreachable without proper search mechanisms put into place and envisioned better services to find the materials. He also presented a browsing interface done by Leslie Kadish for the Senate Map collection.

Helsinki 1956 / Land Survey of FinlandHeli Laaksonen from the National Land Survey described their digitization project with historical aerial images. They, too, are unreferenced, and therefore cannot be searched and found.


Tomi Kauppinen from Aalto University showed SAPO, the Finnish spatiotemporal ontology, and the work that remains to be done to get full coverage of historical administrative borders. The National Linked Data Gazetteer of Historical Places project was announced a day earlier.

Helsinki ilmakuvina 1943–2012

Arend Oudman and Outi Hermans from the City of Helsinki showed how they have opened and processed maps and aerial images in the context of broader efforts by the City of Helsinki to work with open data. The image shows the Historical Aerial Images browser.

The workshop

After hearing the introductions, we focused on a set of themes during the afternoon workshop:

  • MapWarper & iD development & map search
    Developing the tools to be easier to use while maintaining complexity. We are creating a toolset to communicate with both Wikimedia Commons and Open Historical Map. The key features will be search, warping and vectorizing, with a seamless user experience switching between the tasks. We are starting a structured work process for development.
  • The Pan-Nordic map project
    We found out that instead of a unique map covering all Nordic countries we will get interesting insight by looking into individual areas, especially cities. Focusing on places on a human scale will allow narrating with more materials, such as images. The work will be administered by chapters.
    If you are interested in participating, please be in contact with the Wikimedia chapter in your country.
  • Aerial images case study
    Together with the Aerial Images archives at the Land Survey of Finland and other participants we will select a suitable set of material for a case study. We will research different workflows and look at open tools to use with aerial images. It will make sense to support the Nordic map project with the aerial images.
  • Gazetteer
    We will further collaboration with place name projects, such as Pelagios 3 and the National Linked Data Gazetteer of Historical Places (SeCo), and work actively in the creation of place attributes in Wikidata. The Swedish volunteer project gathers municipality border data for a practical demonstration. We may develop mechanisms for allowing volunteer participation in gathering and interpreting the place names together with the Finnish gazetteer service. Susanna and Tomi Kauppinen have been included in a workshop proposal by the GeoHumanities SIG for a workshop Place and Period in an Emerging Global Gazetteer: a proposed DH2014 workshop.

Additionally we will be working with at least the following topics:

  • Wiki Loves maps – the hackathon
    A hackathon event is being planned for the Autumn. An idea about informal hacking events more regularly was presented.
  • Maps in Wikimedia Commons
    This development will include work to define map metadata for storing maps in Wikimedia, applying that to the map template and the GWToolset.
MapWarper concept mock-up integrating with the OpenStreetMap iD experience.

MapWarper concept mock-up integrating with the OpenStreetMap iD editor experience.

More information!

You will find the speakers, presentations and video coverage at

There are follow-ups written by Jessica Parland-von Essen and Laura Sillanpää for AvoinGLAM.

If you are interested in joining, contact your local Wikimedia for the local projects, or the Wikimaps project. Join one of the groups on this site or follow discussion in Facebook. Next hangouts are on Tuesday, and again in a month!

A travelogue

I spent two weeks in the UK, meeting researchers studying crowdsourcing and volunteering in arts, humanities and geographic projects. The reason for travel is my own study that is closely knitted to the Wikimaps project.

Definitions or not

There have been several attempts to categorize activities taking place in this area. Terms like crowdsourcing, user-generated content, citizen science, VGI (volunteered geographic information) or even citizen history have overlapping meanings. Categories have been proposed based on levels of participation or type of task to be carried out.

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Crowdsourcing in the Arts and Humanities

Overviews of recent developments in crowdsourcing the archive in the arts and humanities are being crafted by academics. Stuart Dunn (blog) and Mark Hedges from King’s College, London, have made a survey, workshops and a report Crowd-Sourcing Scoping Study : Engaging the Crowd with Humanities ResearchKathryn Eccles (blog) is a researcher in Oxford Internet Institute, mapping the area broadly. She has focused on the Your Paintings Tagger project, that invites users to classify paintings in the UK. The video recordings from last year’s one-day workshop Digital Impacts : Crowdsourcing in Arts and Humanities she organized at the OII can be found online. Mia Ridge (blog) is preparing her PhD and publishing a book Crowdsourcing our Cultural Heritage this year.

From tags to text


Photo Kris Grint

One of the tasks that lends itself best to crowdsourcing is transcribing. I familiarized with two projects. Tim Causer and Kris Grint discussed the Transcribe Bentham project at University College of London, a project that provides thorough reading and analysis of Jeremy Bentham’s works. I had my photo taken in front of the mummified Mr. Bentham, which, I was told, is a favourite souvenir on graduation day. A sort of museum selfie – they call it auto-icon… Technologically, the project is building an extension in MediaWiki to handle the transcription process.

Zooniverse, an Oxford-based academic project, runs popular citizen science projects. Amateurs have been invited to identify galaxies, cyclones or species on land and sea. Rob Simpson (blog) presented the latest project Operation War Diary, a collaboration with the National Archives and the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War to transcribe WWI war diaries. Instead of trying to transcribe every word of the life in trenches, the project aims to index the diaries, listing names, places and activities.

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War Diaries waiting for their readers

Kate Lindsay, Ylva Berglund Prytz and Alun Edwards at Academic IT, University of Oxford have also been working with the memorabilia of WWI. They have studied community collection methods in the Europeana 1914–18 project. Road show collection days have been arranged around Europe to enable face-to-face encounters between those who have stories or objects of the war and the researchers.

Creative Commons License

Participatory mapping

Volunteering with geographic information can take many forms, extending beyond participating in OpenStreetMap, the map that anyone can edit.

Muki Haklay (blog) leads the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) research group at University College of London.

“Extreme Citizen Science is a situated, bottom-up practice that takes into account local needs, practices and culture and works with broad networks of people to design and build new devices and knowledge creation processes that can transform the world.”

Projects are exciting: Participatory mapping in Congo-Brazzaville, Material practices of participatory sensing, Tools for Conservation VolunteersEngagement in publicly initiated scientific research, ICT helping arctic hunters to adapt to climate change, Mapping tools for health services, to name some.

If you have the time, there will be a seminar soon. Citizen Cyberscience Summit will be held in London on 20-22 February 2014.

Participatory perspectives

UCL is a partner in Mapping for Change. It is a social enterprise that uses online mapping and GIS to support sustainable communities. Under the supervision of Louise Francis, they have worked with several community mapping projectsThe projects attempt to facilitate in situations of environmental change, by addressing the communities affected by the changes.

There is an emerging field of projects using collaborative sensing. Mappers are recording their movements in space and time and gathering additional information about themselves or the environment to contribute that information to the project.


Collective Sensory Experience Map, New Oak Walking Map by Christian Nold


Christian Nold (website) has explored emotional mapping in his participatory art works. Biomapping is a methodology to measure and visualize the emotional response of people in relation to their geographical location.

San Francisco Emotion Map shown here involved a total of 98 participants exploring San Francisco’s Mission District neighborhood using the Bio Mapping device, echoing the situationist dérive drifting through urban spaces and a psychogeographical enquiry into the perception of space.


I also had the opportunity to chat with Yuwei Lin (blog), who has studied hacker cultures and gender bias in OpenStreetMap. She was introducing OpenStreetMap at Victoria & Albert Museum Digital Futures event, a showcase for emerging artistic practices.

Knowledge geographies

Mark Graham (blog) said that geography is all and nothing: It either includes everything or is included in everything. He is the Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, and he has a special focus on Information Geographies, of how people and places are manifested through their virtual representations.


Maps studying the extents of the knowledge sphere of the Internet have been crafted in collaboration with Stefano De Sabbata.

Research at OII attempts to interpret phenomena of the digital domain at a global level, looking at the socio-economical implications of today’s connecting technologies. Research projects have looked into social power structures in information networks, like in the case of Mapping Wikipedia. In this collaboration, visualizations depicting Wikipedia edits in the geographic, temporal space, in different languages and perspectives, are created in the context of the research project Who represents the Arab world online? Mapping and measuring local knowledge production and representation in the Middle East and North Africa See also the related Terra Incognita project)

One of the researchers in the project is Heather Ford (blog). She is a former Advisory Board member in the Wikimedia Foundation, and she has worked as a digital ethnographer in the Ushahidi project. Here is a writing reflecting patterns of conflict and vandalism on Wikipedia: How Wikipedia’s Dr Jekyll became Mr Hyde: Vandalism, sock puppetry and the curious case of Wikipedia’s decline.

To conclude

It is an interesting time in history to be working with these topics. The aspirations, opportunities and experiences are accumulating and creating an opening for a participatory commons, as phrased by Mia Ridge in the poster Creating a Digital History Commons through crowdsourcing and participant digitisation.

Thank you

all the above mentioned and the following for insightful moments of chatting:

Eric Meyer, Ralph Schroeder, Isis Hjorth, Ulrike Rauer, Johanna Sumuvuori, Juhani Yli-Vakkuri, Claudio Calvino, Vili Lehdonvirta, Khairunnisa Haji Ibrahim, Antti Halonen, Melissa Terras, Gianfranco Gliozzo and Jessica Wardlaw.

Announcing the Wikimaps Nordic kick-off workshop

Welcome to the Wikimaps Nordic kick-off workshop!

We invite all Nordic partners of the Wikimaps Nordic event to get together in Helsinki. This is the first time we gather around the same table. Let’s learn from each other what challenges we have with old maps and aerial images and set out to solve them together. The National Archives of Finland will host the workshop day.

28 February 2014, 09:00 – 16:00
National Archives of Finland, Siltavuorenranta 16 – Helsinki


Morning programme

free of charge, open for all interested

9.00 Coffee
9.30 Welcome. Presentation of the Wikimaps project by Susanna Ånäs and Tim Waters.
10.00 Presentations of map related challenges by Nordic GLAM representatives
11.30 Presentation by the wikimedian-in-residence Hay Kranen, working in Koninklijke Bibliotheek and Nationaal Archief in the Netherlands.
12.00–12.30 Discussion, opportunity to present in a lightning talk, conclusion.

Afternoon programme

for Wikimaps Nordic partners, free of charge

12.30 Lunch
13.30–16.00 Workshop for the Wikimaps Nordic partners

Dinner & drinks

at participants’ own expense

Register for the event!


January Hangouts: Nordic

The Nordic Wikimaps community met for the first time online. We had participants from 3 of the 5 countries involved in the project.

Our goal was to get to know each other and familiarize with the Wikimaps project, but we ended up also scouting many interesting repositories.


Istvan Kecskemeti, Reko Etelävuori and Tomi Ahoranta (National Archives of Finland)

The National Archives of Finland hosts an impressive amount of 2 million digitized and openly licensed maps. Their interest in finding an open source and free tool for georeferencing maps as a crowdsourced process has been a spark for the Wikimaps project.


Heli Laaksonen (National Land Survey Finland)

Heli sent her greetings to the meeting while not being able to attend herself.

The Land Survey has around 700 000 old aerial images from 1930 on, of which 200 000 are scanned. Currently there is no platform for publicizing the scanned items. Georeferencing is a challenge as well. With current resources it would take 30 years to finish the work.

The Wikimaps project could be a channel for georeferencing the image indexes and the images. Georeferencing data could be used for calculating the orthophotos.

Pekka Sarkola (OpenStreetMap and GIS activist)

203406_1961Pekka has a history at the National Land Survey of Finland. He is the contact for the Finnish OpenStreetMap community and active in the open knowledge domain.

The Finnish Land Survey has recently opened old base maps (1949-1991), which are of a great interest to the open data community. Wikimaps could offer a working environment for that.

Jessica Parland-von Essen

Jessica runs Brages Pressarkiv, a Swedish newspaper archive with extensive amounts of clippings related to personalities and locations in Finland. The project is creating Linked Open Data between Swedish web resources in Finland. While not directly affiliated with maps, the use of the Finnish spatiotemporal ontology SAPO is of great interest to the network. She is a member of the GLAM team in Wikimedia Finland.

Jyrki Lehtinen

Jyrki has a background in historical GIS, and he has worked with georeferencing and vectorizing historical maps, some of which can be found at the Lounaispaikka geoportal. He is a member of the board of Wikimedia Finland.

John Erling Blad (Arts Council Norway)

John works currently in the Norwegian Arts Council and he is involved in the Norvegiana dataset. He has a history in Wikimedia, having worked in the Wikidata project in Wikimedia Deutschland. Both old maps and aerial images are of interest, such as the Widerøe photo archive of 315 000 aerial photos.

Tettstedet Feda i Kvinesdal kommune / Vilhelm Skappel

Tettstedet Feda i Kvinesdal kommune / Vilhelm Skappel

Harald Groven (Wikimedia Norway)

Harald has a long standing interest in historical GIS. In Wikimaps, he is the country contact for Norway.

Harald pointed out the maps repositories of The Norwegian Mapping Authority (no:Kartverket) with nearly all digital vector maps on Norway released under CC-BY.
It would be possible to integrate historical census data, vector maps from Kartverket and a gazetteer of 700 000 place names. In Norway there will be 18 000 historical maps in the National Library and National archives digitized soon and a project creating historical maps of changing administrative boundaries.

Another project of interest are the digitized historical maps of Finnish/Sámi/Norwegian speaking population in Northern Norway 1861


Jan Ainali and André Costa (Wikimedia Sweden)

Jan is the CEO of Wikimedia Sweden and the country contact for the Wikimaps project. André Costa is a GLAM technician and project manager, and will be involved in the Wikimaps project.

There is great interest in the Swedish Wikimedia community to work with historical maps on parishes and municipalities. Wikimedia Sweden has been supporting the Swedish OSM community with a server for development.

Common pilot covering all Nordic area

We agreed to aim for a common map of a point in time, covering all Nordic area. A dive into the past quickly revealed that centenaries have marked changes across the Nordic countries. 100 years ago, the First World War reshaped the borders in Finland and Estonia, marking the end of Russian rule and the beginning of independence. Rewinding another 100 years, the Napoleonic wars changed all of the Nordic countries, starting the Russian rule in Finland. Let’s craft our common pilot proposal here.

A brief discussion on copyright

John mentioned that a lot of institutions may be interested in imposing new copyrights if they digitize new previously unavailable materials, and that we must make sure the results will be open.

Harald pointed out the adoption of the PSI directive is going to help even more maps to be free. This European legislation is intended to oblige the public sector to open documents held by the public institutions. Since the amendment in June 2013, it now covers the library, museum and archive sectors.

We came to the conclusion that we will start with materials that are already digitized and open. That will pave the way for opening locked materials further along our quest.

Thank you all for participating in the Hangout!

January Hangouts: Designers & Developers

The Wikimaps Creative Communities met online on the 7th January. It was the second event for the Designers & Developers community and the Wikimaps Nordic community met online for the first time.

Designers & Developers

Arun Ganesh had prepared a presentation of the Wikimaps Atlas for the event, but technical obstacles prevented it from happening. The project is a newly funded Wikimedia IEG project. Arun and Hugo Lopez will create a set of up-to-date maps and tools for easily creating maps on demand. They will work on Wikimedia-specific map styles, and look after the implementation of the maps in the Wikipedias. We’ll be hearing more from them!

Type in a different language code in the input box, hit tab and see what happens. Project by Arun Ganesh.

In the discussion we aimed at framing the scope of the Wikimaps tools project right. We had two key topics that we wanted to tackle:

  1. How shall we deal with the integration of the Wikimaps tools in Wikimedia
  2. We must start with use cases to come up with the most important tasks

Talking about cropping

Dan Michael O. Heggø told briefly about his experiences with OAuth. This way, the Wikimaps tools could be external to MediaWiki, and the user could authenticate in the external tool using their Wikimedia credentials. Dan has created a tool for cropping images in the Commons, the Crop Tool.

The crop tool in your Wikipedia toolset

The discussion drifted to cropping or not cropping maps for example when wanting to stitch several map sheets together. For this, we have a common understanding: You must not crop a map before uploading it to the Commons! You can make another cropped copy of the map. A special template can be made to maintain the connection between the images. Or you can use the cropping tools in the Warper, to mask undesired areas. We made note of the need to highlight different areas on the map image, such as the legend, or the scale.

We noted that images or maps can already be annotated in Wikimedia Commons, using the ImageAnnotator. There are other great projects dealing with map annotations, like the MapHub project and the consequent Annotorious project.

This again lead to a discussion about identifying and collecting place names on a map – or using place names as a means of roughly geolocating maps. There are academic and governmental place name repositories, that could all be taken advantage of. We are touching this topic in the Wikimaps project further along our roadmap, in the Wikimaps Gazetteer project. Even though it is not in the making yet, ideas about it are more than welcome.

Talking about use cases

As a commentator put it in the Etherpad for ideas about Wikimaps Warper: What’s it for? Who’s going to use it? What are the key things users want it to do?

Rectifying maps in Wikimedia Commons is a facility many people may be interested in. The users may be archives, who want to have volunteers rectify their maps, or they may be historical mappers who look for appropriate old maps to use as information source. And many others.

We can see that there are users that are interested in the pixel – often the case of the archives – and others that are interested in data. For example, you can calculate travel times along ancient routes if you have extracted roads from the map images as vector data. See for example , and

The maps in the scope of the Wikimaps may also cover undermapped areas of the world, as brought up by Jaakko Helleranta, who works with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap in Nicaragua. Tim Waters showed us, a version of the MapWarper that was used to georeference maps of Haiti in the earthquake relief.

You can join defining the use cases in the Wikimaps Design page. And please, ask for editor rights here to tell about your experiences or projects with historical maps. Comments and discussion are welcome! You can also read the meeting minutes.

Thank you for participating in the January Hangout Jan Ainali, John Erling Blad, André Costa, Tom Fish, Arun Ganesh, Harald Groven, Jaakko Helleranta, Yuwei Lin, Dan Michael Olsen Heggø, Pekka Sarkola, Manuela Schmidt, Rob Warren and Tim Waters!

Wikimaps around the World

The Wikimaps project was involved in a chain of international events. First in series was State of the Map Baltics organized in Tartu, Estonia. The series continued to Wikimania in Hong Kong ja finally the project was part of a code sprint organized to celebrate the 9th birthday of OpenStreetMap.

In Tartu

Together with the Baltic mappers we arranged a workshop on historical maps of Tartu. The Estonian National Archives, the National Library and Tartu University provided us with the old maps. They depict the city of Tartu over the years 1892–1986. All maps used in the workshop are now available in hi-res in Wikimedia Commons.

Pharus-Plan Dorpat, 1910

Pharus-Plan Dorpat, 1910

Tartu’s history is multifaceted: The fortress, that was known as Tarbatu in the first centuries AD, was renamed Yuryev when Yaroslav the Wise, the Grand Prince of Kiev renamed it after his Christian name Yuri. Conquerors and names kept changing since. In the end of the 13th century Tartu was a member of the Hanseatic League under the name Dorpat. For the Swedish rulers Tartu was known as Dorpat, as well as for the Polish ones. The Estonian name Tartu was adopted since Estonia detached from Russia in 1918. This was good material for our workshop.

OpenStreetMap actives from Estonia, Finland, Russia, Belarus and Poland were gathered in the main building of the Tartu University. OpenStreetMap Foundation representatives from western Europe attended also.

Wikimaps-työpaja SotM Balticsissa CC BY-SA 3.0 Pekka Sarkola

Wikimaps workshop in SotM Baltics CC BY-SA 3.0 Pekka Sarkola

We started the workshop early Sunday morning. I presented the maps and the challenges

  • Who would use old maps?
  • How could the historical maps be used?
  • Comments on a specific section of the Wikimaps plan

We worked with a tight schedule in five groups. Attentive sounds of discussion filled the space. Two of the groups managed to get their thoughts on paper.

The first group discussed the properties that are to be collected from a map. As an example, when a mapper traces the Tartu Town Hall, there is no way of knowing the start_date, the construction year of the building – only that it existed at the given date. Or maybe the map is not truthful. In one of the maps from the Soviet era the geographic features had been falsified.

Rautatiestä lenkkipoluksi. Mitenkäs nyt matka-aika lasketaan?

Jogging track from old railway line. What happens to travel times?

We discussed routing and calculating travel times along historical itineraries. Routes emerge and disappear: bridges are bombed, railway tracks removed and a cycling track is built in place, new highways are built.

The proposal for mapping Paris of the Musketeers triggered more ideas of placing literature on a map: Pubs of Joyce’s Ulysses, Sherlock Holmes’ London, Robin Hood in Nottingham and mapping the land of Kalevala, the national epic of Finland. Biographies of historical figures could be placed on a map in Wikipedia.

Wikipedisti ja kartoittajat samassa veneessä. State of the Map Balticsin veneretki. CC BY-SA 2.0 SK53 OSM

Wikipedian and mappers in the same boat. The boat trip in State of the Map Baltics. CC BY-SA 2.0 SK53 OSM

In Hong Kong

Later the same week hundreds of wikipedians gathered in Hong Kong for Wikimania from all over the world. During the event the participants in the multitude of Wikimedia projects can exchange experiences and tighten their collaboration. On the other hand it is an opportunity for the Wikimedia Foundation staff to discuss developing the environment together with the volunteers. For Wikimaps it was an chance to show what we have done and start establishing the project.

Round table discussion

The first thing done in Hong Kong was organizing a round table discussion about geodata in Wikimedia. Particiapants were people from Wikimedia projects that use geodata as well as people from the Wikimedia Foundation.

  • Maarten Dammers presented the Geographicus map donation he has helped to upload in the Commons.
  • Barbara Fischer presented a work in progress for a time-based animated map of Römisches Limes representing the erection and disappearance of Roman fortresses in Central Europe. The German Wikimedia organized an interesting event Wikidata trifft Archäologie 2013 this spring that gathered together the people working with definitions of place in the Ancient world.
  • Hugo Lopez is starting a project where maps for Wikipedia articles could be created from GIS data dynamically.
  • Daniel Kinzler explained the state of geodata in Wikidata.
  • Wikimaps presented briefly.
  • Tim Alder ja Daniel Schwen were present. They have been creating connections between Wikimedia and OpenStreetMap over the years. WikiMiniAtlas, OSM-Gadget, Geohack and WIWOSM have been made by them.

We discussed the needs of the projects and created a document.


By the end of the week Susanna presented Wikimaps together with Maarten Dammers. Maarten is a volunteer of great projects in the Wikimedia Commons and he has originally proposed a project by the name Wikimaps.

Wikimaps Warper työssä

Wikimaps Warper at work

We presented the Wikimaps Warper that has been customized for Wikimedia Commons by it’s original developer Tim Waters. It is now possible to georeference images in the Wikimedia Commons. The maps that have been georeferenced, can in turn be used in Open Historical Map for mapping historical features with OpenStreetMap tools.

OpenStreetMap Birthday Sprint

With all we had done and presented over the course of the week, we were part of the OpenStreetMap code sprint. 12 hour time zone difference made it impossible for us to do things together, simultaneously. The maps of Tartu had travelled from archives in Tartu via Hong Kong to an event in the US.

Tarton kartta Open Historical Map -ympäristössä, jossa voi käyttää OpenStreetMapin uutta iD-työkalua

A Map of Tartu in the Open Historical Map environment, where you can use OpenStreetMap’s new iD tool.