Tracks in Time – Tithe Maps for Leeds

Popped along to the official launch of West Yorkshire Archive Service’s (WYAS) Tracks in Time website and their new online mapping application, held at the City Museum. Earlier the prototype was leaked onto Secret Leeds to an enthusiastic response. I’d always been interested in this project, having been made aware of it when I was asked for some advice about it in the very early days of the project, by me living in Leeds, and recently with our work with the New York Public Library georectifiying and digitizing their historical map collection – so it’s really good to see it out there and completed!

Its a nice application (even if it has a bit of an old fashioned/council GIS feel to it) and works well, that used the code from a similar Cheshire Project.  The project is the culmination of some Lottery funding and although the Archive service is for the whole of the county, the project was restricted to Leeds. Gardline Infotech were contracted to do the offline GIS portion, and the folks at WYAS, with Leeds City Council and Cheshire Shared Services who put together the online version.

The system has two map panes, on the left tithe maps and on the right some more modern reference maps.

leed tithe map application

There is also  layers for land use and who owns what. Users can search for people and get these selected on the map – it’s a great resource. Searches can be exported as CSV file, which gets marks from me. Unfortunately, both these exports and the maps miss out the land value data, which had been transcribed, apparently due to a technical limitation in the software, which is a great great shame. I’d love to be able to compare the price of land as it was then to house prices now.

I think it was Stephanie? from WYAS, who was describing how it was not only people that can be searched, but corporations or other owners. A search for “railway” for example gave results for all those portions of land taken for new railways. Railway companies such as Leeds & Bradford Railway Company and North & Midland Railway are recorded, with land also taken for railway stations. On the map we see that the present day lines of the railways, before the lines were built. Its a particularly good resource for that time of the industrial revolution, and is strong in the north of england where a lot of the industry was taking place.

leeds west yorkshire tithe map

The 58 hand drawn tithe maps were scanned, georeferenced and digitized. The digitized vectors were tied together with volunteer transcribed apportionment information – over 29,000 records!

The maps are hand drawn.
The maps were scanned by the Coal Authority in Nottinghamshire. They have the largest facility in its kind in Europe. Some of the maps took up the entire table – they were over 3m long!

Tithe maps were not meant to be definative maps of boundaries or for navigation, they were never meant to be a record of rights of ways and roads. As a consequence, these maps have parts where some areas are out by 60m or more. Its also important to remember that the maps are hand drawn. There were only ever 3 copies of each made – one sent to London, one to the Diocese and one to the Parish. The Archive Service had a copy of all of the maps but sometimes only one of the were found – and some were in poor shape.

We had a chat with the representative from Gardline Infotech whose name I didn’t catch and Peter Lythe, the project manager for WYAS – and discussed some of the challenges.

Georeferencing the maps proved troublesome – in particular where maps had folds and some where the original surveys were inaccurate. The side by side panes help to disguise some of the inaccuracies where they occur. They used the historical buildings data to help pin point some of the areas on the maps, and then used OS MasterMap to get the tie points. Yes, I can hear alarm bells ringing too – by using OS Master Map, the georectified maps are derivative works of Ordnance Survey, and so you’d need to have an OS license to use them.

Gardline used Cadcorp and FME mainly to vectorize the data, and they did a good job.  I don’t think the vectors can be downloaded either – if they were the digitized land parcels vector GIS files would also be under this same license. There was never a requirement to make available these files available to the public at large for free – so nothing wrong happened, just another missed opportunity. The good news is that the transcribed data is separate from the maps and can be accessed and downloaded (without the land values field) – and the scanned source imagery would be free of OS tie-in and it wouldn’t take too much to georectify the source maps (and even remaining ones for the whole county) and vectorize them in a collaborative and open manner, as we’ve seen.

Overall it’s a plus to the city and a marvelous resource of the past for the future.

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Cool new Static Maps API for OpenStreetMap – GSOC Project

Pawel Niechoda, the student I was mentoring as part of the Google Summer of Code OpenStreetMap projects, has passed with flying colours by developing a very cool way to put OSM maps on your website, quickly and easily and with no javascript!

The Static Maps API helps with embedding map images into any website, and it has a wide range of markers and configuration options.

Simple one-line example: http://dev.openstreetmap.org/~pafciu17/?module=map&bbox=69.2,-47.2,71,-50&width=400&height=250

For example: a map with transparent polygons:

and ones with markers

I think the scale bar rocks too.

You can get the code here:
http://gsoc-os-static-maps-api.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/

OpenStreetMap had 6 projects this year with GSOC:

  • Preprocessor to add altitude info to OSM data
  • Android navigation application using OSM data
  • Profile based traffic routing
  • OSM direction too for visually impaired
  • Automatic street sign detection and reading
  • Static Maps API

http://socghop.appspot.com/org/list_proposals/google/gsoc2009/openstreetmap

I really enjoyed being a mentor, and was very fortunate to have a very capable student to work with! Cheers Pawel!

Reuters AlertNet Mapping Workshop

In June, at a special Reuters AlertNet workshop, designed for (mainly UK based) humanitarian organisations, I  presented about OpenStreetMap and was on the panel for a discussion. The talk was an introduction to OSM, followed by announcement of the Africover import from DevelopmentSeed, a detailed look at Gaza and a talk about the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

The theme of the day was “looking at how the aid world can use maps to communicate, advocate and plan for disasters.” – and was a general and gentle introduction on how geographic information, mapping and maps can help “showcase their work, advocate around areas of need and plan during emergency responses”.

Organisations such as Mines Advisory Group, UNHCR, Save the Children were present, and on the panel there was Nick McWilliam from MapAction, Vincent Casey from WaterAid, Herbert Hansen from KeyObs and me representing OpenStreetMap. Attendees could tweet us questions, and one was asked about “What moral obligations do data collectors have when they encounter human rights abuses”….The moral maze being, by keeping quiet and collecting data, the map can be completed, and possibly help those in need. By making noise, the map may not be completed and thus, less help may be applied.

The event was webcasted, and archived, and you can access it by clicking the image at the end of the post summarising the mapping workshop from AlertNet. You may need to register quickly to view the video.

Private Maps Now Available in the Warper

Added the ability to make your uploaded maps private in the Map Warper – only you will be able to see and edit these maps, they won’t show up on the lists.
You can also delete maps too.
Access to both these features are via the map’s edit tab.

maynooth map warper

Other bit of news is that I’ve disabled anonymous uploads, so sign up if you haven’t already.

Haiti

Over the Christmas period I imported the road network for Haiti – many thanks to Haiti’s CNIGS (Centre National de l’Information Géo-Spatiale) and CartONG. It has pretty much all the regular roads, but there’s still quite a bit of work to do.

haiti openstreetmap jan 2009

Late last year, we met at the GeOng conference in Chambery, organised by CartOng.  It was about the role of geodata and GIS in humanitarian work & crisis response (we also had a tiny mapping party afterwards). At the time, there were people on the ground in Haiti working to get some good quality data to share with other organisations. There were a few sources, some quite detailed, with even the little farm tracks mapped but very poor quality and inaccurate (possibly traced from un-orthorectified imagery), others were good, but were unable to be released publicly.  Bernard from CartONG was out in Haiti during and after the conference and was key in giving us the data on behalf of the Centre National de l’Information Géo-Spatiale (CNIGS).

Yahoo Imagery covers the area quite well, however the hurricane has affected the area quite considerably:

That saying, there are residential roads and tracks that can be traced.  It would be good to incorporate affected areas, which roads are closed, and which ones have been opened.  ReliefWeb has a few good resources. Interestingly, the map of road conditions highlights the types of road conditions interpreted as practical information, “4×4 can only pass over bridge, trucks have to ford river”. This is exactly the type of information that the UNSDIT seeks to make it easy to record.

Topology needs checking and validating – the original data had plenty of gaps and overhangs – roads that didn’t join up with each other properly (spent a couple of days fixing most of these). There are a few things that need to checked and correct properly.

Africa Online Maps Compared

Robert Soden has a nice blog post showing why international development organisations should use OpenStreetMap if they want the most current data. He looked at three African capital cities, in Zimbabwe, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For two our of the three, Mogadishu and Kinshasa, there is simply no contest – OpenStreetMap is way ahead of the others in both coverage and in the level of detail. OpenStreetMap and Google Maps are comparable in Harare. The data available through Microsoft’s Virtual Earth lagged way behind in all three

Nice to see that more and more organisations are seeing clear benefits and potential.

Robert follows up with plans to create a “GIS for Humanitarian Relief”, utilising OSM. They’ve a great idea of using Interns to do the mapping! Hopefully, we can work together with the OpenStreetMap Foundation, and build on existing work  and relationships.

Nokia Mappers Arrested in India

So, we mocked the UK government when they said that mappers were terrorists, but as Geocarta writes, two people in India, making a map with their GPS device have been arrested for this “reason”! Apparently they were working for the GI company Biond Software, collecting data for Nokia (and Navteq?). As of writing this post, the pair will be in day 7 in police custody.

Biond Softwares director Milind Dalvi, who came here and met the ATS officials, explained: ‘We have been commissioned by Nokia Navigator to do survey of major roads, terrain mapping and tourists destinations in the country using a GPS system. (source)

Citizens alerted the authorities after seeing the GPS devices on the cars. Then, after being arrested, they were futher doomed after the police saw that they were taking pictures of gates and walls, especially around an airport which has an army base next door.

From the India Times:

A police official told TOI that more than the data, the agency is interested in knowing to what end is the data used. “A detailed map can show strategic locations or disclose sensitive information, it can be used by terrorists or people with malafide interests. Thus, we are going through the maps and also questioning them about their clients,” said the official.

More info from India Times

From: http://geocartablog.com/?p=900

I’ve asked Nokia International for comment, but have yet to hear anything.
Edits: Nokia India’s press office email  at communications.india@nokia.com is not working  (user unknown error)!

december updates & talk-gb-thenorth

Busy couple of weeks, two BarCamps in Sheffield and Liverpool, AGI North in Leeds, and announcing today, the creation of Talk-gb-thenorth OpenStreetMap mailing list for the North of England.

With a lot more active users, interested people and mappers up north here, we’ve started a mailing list. A place to discuss local relevant issues, announce and plan events. We hope to start a few social / say trips out events around the region in the new year. All welcome to sign up!

Location and mapping technologies were in evidence at both BarCamps, with myself doing the OSM session at Sheffield, written about earlier. And John doing one in his home town of Liverpool. John brought a big A1 printout of Liverpool, with stickers so people could stick on the map the location of points of interests. A good idea. Oh, I came second place in a pitching competition for a pet (non-geo) project of mine, thanks Katie and sponsors for the prizes. For those who went to Sheffield, there’s a “viral” competition open, I made a slightly embarrassing entry, click & share the link, help me win and it may even make you laugh! 🙂

Geocaching, Iphone & location, GPS Art, Mobile & geo games, slippy maps were amongst the sessions held, there was quite a noticeable geo theme to the events. TheGeoWeb would be proud!

Recently in Leeds, I went to  poorly attended but very very good (and free) presentations of the AGI North SIG. Three presentations were from Neil Bendel representing the AGI Health SIG, Nick Armitage with the NHS Info Centre, and Andre Britten from Dotted Eyes (the winner of the new NHS Digital Mapping Agreement).

Interestingly, Dotted Eyes won the DMA from Ordnance Survey… they also offer NAVTEQ products and some additional products such as maintaining list of obsolete postcodes. They don’t have any data that shows footpaths, however, but only have cyclepaths – not really great for a Heath service that wants people to go out and be healthy. Also, there’s no direct way for ambulances out in the field to submit corrections to road networks (and they really need up-to-date maps), but they can send their DMA agent an email, and then the company would tell Navteq, and then they would have to request an update of the correct data. That’s really really un-easy.

Another interesting project from the NHS folks was about “Fruit & Veg Deserts” (not desserts!) project. The idea here is that you can map where shops have fresh fruit and veg available (oases), and see where there is a dearth of fresh food (deserts). Makes it easier to approach the smaller shops and say “look, here’s a gap in the market”.

Hathersage at Barcamp Sheffield

On the Sunday, a cold winters morning after partying, nine barcampers, including a family, headed off to the Peaks in Derbyshire to Hathersage – a pretty town, that was quite unmapped (before we went there!). We split up into groups and wandered around the village – our traces can be seen below:

hathersage

We took the train from Sheffield to Hathersage, which gave allowed some time to get used to the gps units.

Wandering along quaint, but cold tracks, to mark those points!

Some of our group, being filmed by Bill:

of course, we met up in a pub, The Little John for extremely large plates of food, and beer.

All photos copyright Ian Ibbotson