Maps in Context: About

Maps in Context: About

Maps in Context aims at solving the seemingly insurmountable problem of the lost links between old maps and their contemporary contexts. The website offers a relational and searchable database that connects both preserved and lost old maps to various contemporary textual sources that explain their genesis, production circumstances, purposes, consumption and uses, values, importance, etc. In many cases, this information is difficult to find. In most cases, old maps are kept in separate collections, apart from the textual and visual documents that contain contextual information about them. Moreover, this information is spread over numerous types of archival files and printed documents (e.g. account books, correspondence, litigation files, wills, stock catalogues, advertisements, ordinances, etc.), which in turn are kept in various archives and libraries and which are hardly searchable through online catalogues or databases. Through the Maps in Context database, these various types of documents and information are virtually linked and become searchable. It allows to study and contextualise old maps more profoundly and to delve into the secrets beyond and behind the documents.

Searching the Maps in Context web database is of inestimable value for a broad community of historians, geographers, archaeologists, art historians, architects, librarians, archivists, museum and exhibition curators, landscape designers, urban planners, students, teachers, map collectors and antiquarians who use, study, collect and/or love one or more maps in particular. In addition, linking and unlocking the data will enhance new multidisciplinary research on neglected themes in the history of cartography, e.g. mapping processes, people’s sense of directions and navigational skills, cartographic literacies, daily map use, field work and surveying practices, the demand for geo-data, cognition processes, or collector’s mania in the past.

Maps in Context has been set up at the University of Amsterdam as an unfunded grassroots pilot project by map historians Bram Vannieuwenhuyze and Marissa Griffioen, in collaboration with Webmapper. After a first phase of conceptualizing, designing and testing the web database, it has been stuffed with data which mainly focus on the Low Countries between the fifteenth and nineteenth century. The project team has the aim to pursue data collection and entry on a regular base and to publish the results of the research based on them. They will also look for funding and support in order to maintain and develop the existing infrastructure into a strong, efficient and sustainable web database and to promote its functionalities, e.g. by presenting the project at workshops and conferences or organising participatory workshops in archives, libraries and museums.


Please do not hesitate to contact the project team if you would like to contribute or if you want to complete or correct specific data. We also welcome any kind of support and collaborative projects in connection to Maps in Context.


Presentations, papers and workshops

Marissa Griffioen, ‘Bodel Nijenhuis’ kaarten in context. Onderzoek naar kaarten in de Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden’, paper at the Boekhistorisch Forum III, Antwerp, 8 November 2019.

Bram Vannieuwenhuyze & Marissa Griffioen, ‘Maps in Context. A new online database linking textual records to old maps’, workshop at the 28th International Conferences for the History of Cartography, Amsterdam, 17 July 2019.

Project Team

Bram Vannieuwenhuyze project coordinator
Marissa Griffioen project collaborator