Thursday, April 23, 2020

Palestine Open Maps - Excellent new mapping resource

Split screen option: Tabgha on left; Capernaum visible on right
Just announced today (2020.04.23) on Twitter is the Palestine Open Maps project. (Do check the Twitter link for a number of videos demonstrating the site's features.)

From the site's description:
Palestine Open Maps is a platform that seeks to combine emerging technologies for mapping and immersive storytelling to:
Open-source and make searchable, for the first time, a uniquely detailed set of historic maps from the period of the British Mandate of Palestine;
Curate layered visual stories that bring to life absent and hidden geographies, in collaboration with data journalists, academic researchers, and civil society groups....

The idea for this platform was inspired by a large collection of 1940s survey maps from the British Mandate of Palestine recently digitized by the Israeli national library. These maps—all now in the public domain—cover the territory at scales of up to 1:20,000, offering a vivid snapshot of a human and natural geography almost unrecognizable on the ground today, with an unparalleled level of physical detail, including population centers, roads, topographic features and property boundaries.

Although the maps were already in the public domain, their usefulness was limited since they comprise hundreds of separate sheets with no easy means to search, navigate or otherwise comprehend. By combining these sheets into seamless layers that can be navigated online, and combining them with other available data sources, such as the 1945 Village Statistics, historic photography, oral histories and present day digital maps and data, this platform seeks to offer an invaluable resource for mapping the transformation in the human geography of historic Palestine over the past 70+ years.
Some things to note:
  • All the maps are public domain. Click on a map location, and you can choose any available maps for that location to download. They go back to the 1876 Palestine Exploration Fund one.
  • The sliding split view is handy to get locations.
  • The satellite imagery used is 2019, apparently from Mapbox. It also includes a street map overlay from 2018.
  • The search feature includes many biblical sites you might want to check, but it's not exhaustive by any means.
  • It's not intended primarily as a biblical resource, but the easy access to historical maps is very helpful.
  • The site is intended as a historical preservation of Arab locations and names before the 1948 establishment of the State of Israel. Another overlay on the site shows Arab locations that were depopulated during that time.
It's definitely worth checking and bookmarking.

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