The Ordnance Survey has recently launched a new initiative aimed at making geographical information more open and accesible. It will enable businesses, communities and individuals to make better use of information. This welcome new initiative brings the Ordnance Survey up to date, at a time when Google Earth and Steet View are very much leading the way in the mapping sphere.
Maps have always been a great resource for historians. Of course archaelogists and geographers find them very useful for mapping buildings and development. You can use maps to great effect for getting a feel for a particular area. For example, looking at 19th Century maps of Old Portsmouth helped me greatly with my dissertaton. And when it comes to looking at how a city such as Portsmouth expanded, and why, and when various suburbs sprang up, maps are the answer. Not only is it interesting to look at old maps, but current maps can tell you an awful lot too.
You can now view a wide range of OS maps on the Open Data website, in a variety of scales, down to street level and even individual buildings. You can also use Open Data to create interactive maps for use on websites. You can now also download a wide range of maps, either straight to your computer or by DVD. This data can be used in Geographical Information systems, and software can be downloaded free from a range of sources. There is even a forum to discuss ideas for projects. I can already see some interesting schemes or mapping walks and bike rides
Already I can see some brilliant uses for these new facilities. I have often wanted to map the locations of Portsmouth’s WW1 and WW2 dead by were they lived; hopefully this is something I will be able to do with OpenData. Or, for example, if I was to write a blog article on a walking tour of Portsmouth – I could use an OS map, and add flags for the various landmarks, with notes. The editing programme allows you to do all of that, and even select certain areas by drawing polygons.
There are plenty of other commercial applications out there that offer similar services, so I think its only right that the UK’s national mapping agency raises its game. We’ve already paid for it through our taxes anyway!