Submissions:2021/OpenHistoricalMap: Historical Geography Wiki style

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2021.


OpenHistoricalMap: Historical Geography Wiki style


Global & Local, Other

Type of session:



OpenHistoricalMap is an ambitious project to map the world throughout history. Unlike previous historical mapping projects, OpenHistoricalMap relies on members of the general public to contribute historical data and tell untold stories about the past using easy-to-use online tools. The data is available under open licenses, making OpenHistoricalMap a natural complement to Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap. OpenHistoricalMap is a charter project of OpenStreetMap U.S., a local chapter of the OpenStreetMap Foundation.

Though the project is still in its infancy, you can already find some pre-Columbian cities, American Civil War fortifications, North American railroads at their peak, shops that closed due to the pandemic, historic transportation networks, changing shorelines, and a variety of other details. Contributors can use sources such as out-of-copyright maps, public domain aerial imagery, historical markers, and their own local knowledge to preserve historical details in the context of a much larger world.

OpenHistoricalMap has adapted the software that powers OpenStreetMap to provide much of the functionality that people expect of present-day maps but with an extra dimension. You can zoom in and out on the map while moving the interactive time slider back and forth. A custom search engine returns results from multiple eras. A specialized query tool enables researchers to extract data across time based on arbitrary attributes, such as the first 10-story buildings in New York City.

OpenHistoricalMap welcomes new mappers who are interested in learning about historical geography and sharing what they have learned. Many of the skills required are the same as those used by traditional historians. The OpenHistoricalMap community is eager to help develop a new community of historical geographers through the project.

OpenHistoricalMap needs your help: mapping the world is already a daunting task, but mapping it throughout time is even more so! Our goal is the same as it has always been - to produce the world’s most comprehensive, obsolete map.

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Richard Welty

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):


Estimated time:

40 minutes

Special requests:

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:

OpenStreetMap US Mappy Hour, 2020

If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)