Trinity, Google Maps digitise Fagel map collection

The Fagel collection consists of thousands of maps like this view of Venice. Rouce: Fagel Collection/TCD

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6 February 2014 | 0

The golden age of exploration will be brought to life in a new interactive website featuring thousands of magnificent early modern (pre-1800) maps which is being developed by researchers at Trinity College Dublin.

The Fagel Project will see 10,000 maps including battle plans, urban streetscapes and architectural drawings made available as a free online resource as part of a new digital humanities project being undertaken by TCD’s departments of History, Geography and Computer Science.

The maps, the majority of which are in colour, form part of Trinity’s Fagel collection, a library assembled by the Fagel family in Amsterdam from 1630-1800. Regarded as one of the finest pre-1800 map collections in the world, the Fagel maps are unique in terms of quality and standard of preservation.

The collection contains maps from all parts of the world, with a particular emphasis on Europe, regions where the Dutch had trading or colonial interests or areas of recent discovery. It includes over 900 detailed urban street plans, several hundred battle plans showing all major conflicts in Europe from 1650 to 1800 and sea and celestial atlases.

Under the direction of Dr Micheál Ó Siochrú, Associate Professor in Modern History, the multidisciplinary team will create a fully interactive website showcasing the entire map collection. The website will allow users to view the maps as an image gallery with full zoom functions and also via a Google Maps interface which will overlay these early modern maps on modern topography. The Google interface will include a ‘time’ feature which will allow users to drill down through maps of the same area drawn up at different periods to explore how the area developed. The website will also incorporate a number of visualisation tools including 3-D modelling of selected battle plans and urban streetscapes.

The initial phase of the Fagel Project has been supported by a philanthropic donation arranged by the Trinity Foundation. The project is also being supported by Google Maps. Similar projects undertaken by the research team include the award-winning Down Survey of Ireland map project.

Speaking about the Fagel Project, Dr Ó Siochrú commented:  “The creation of the Fagel map website gives these glorious treasures of Trinity Library a new lease of life and will provide an invaluable resource for all who wish to understand the development of European identities and of Europe’s relationships with the wider world.”

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