A collaboration between a Swiss technology platform and a UK university offers a massive collection of rare maps to access old Bombay
Screengrab of an old Bombay map from David Rumsey’s collection on the website
Throughout April, the Asiatic Society of Mumbai had organised an exhibition of rare maps that showcased India and Bombay in new light. History and cartography buffs like this writer were treated to a fascinating lesson in time travel. Riding on that high, and having whetted our appetite, we went into overdrive soon after, to find similar resources online that particularly focus on Bombay and the Indian Subcontinent.
In this quest, we stumbled upon OldMapsOnline, which is a project that began in January 2013 as a collaboration between Klokan Technologies GmbH, Switzerland, and The Great Britain Historical GIS Project based at the University of Portsmouth, UK. The intent is to offer easy access to rare maps to the general public. The search engine is user-friendly, where all you need to do is type in a region (be specific), and chances are, you will find what you are looking for. Since we were looking for old Bombay and Western India maps, we were pleasantly surprised to find more than 50 such options, with simple tools to zoom in to specific areas and locations. While some searches for maps take you to the actual preserved copy, others direct the user to individual map collections of private collectors like
With 100 odd maps of the Subcontinent and over 4,00,000 in total that are supported by some of the world’s finest libraries, it’s a treasure trove not just for Bombayphiles or Indophiles but any individual who prefers to take the cartography route to understand history from a visual standpoint.
Log on to OldMapsOnline.org