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I've been asked if I can take a look at OpenStreetMap, with the intention of creating a local map that would feature local history information (eg details of World War One soldiers from the area mapped to their local addresses at the time). I've only ever created custom maps before using Yahoo Pipes (classification map of the world linked to a library catalogue search) and Google My Maps (a map that displayed works of fiction mentioning local areas) and have never used OSM.

After spending a few hours looking through the wiki and this help forum, to achieve something similar using OSM I believe we would have to set up a hosted site for a customised map; install appropriate map editing and rendering software to populate and display the map with the historical data; and export local current map data from OSM for the area we want to focus on into this customised map.

Am I right, way off the mark, or is there a simpler way of achieving the end goal?


asked 02 Sep '14, 13:07

garyg's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 02 Sep '14, 16:21

SimonPoole's gravatar image

SimonPoole ♦


For info, there is an "Open Historical Map" project that's related to OSM:

(02 Sep '14, 15:34) SomeoneElse ♦

Thank you SomeoneElse.

(02 Sep '14, 17:15) garyg

The short answer is as SomeoneElse says: OpenHistoricalMap (OHM).

This the longer answer. OHM at the moment basically provides the OSM stack for adding historical data, but does not provide direct support for adding tags to indicate historical context. The best way is to choose a single time period and map that: and you need to add start_date & end_date tags to elements with tagged content.

At the moment, although you can use online editors such as iD and Potlatch2, I find JOSM more practical for many historical mapping purposes. One of the very useful things is that one can populate an area with data extracted from OpenStreetMap (for instance the basic road network). It can also be used to create data for several different 'snapshot' time-periods, because it provides facilities for conveniently editing many elements at once, which is necessary for adding the appropriate time range data.

Lastly, OpenHistoricalMap only offers the standard OSM cartography which might be unsuitable for a historical map, and (with the exception of two demonstration layers) does not filter different time periods. However it is possible to use TileMill to create alternative renderings from extracted data in such a form that they can easily be added to a website (using OpenLayers or Leaflet).

Clearly the main starting points are:

  • How well mapped is your local area on OSM?
  • Learning to edit OSM/OHM

If you can live with the existing OHM cartographic style then, as long as you only map a snapshot of time then you have a decent starting point. Then I would suggest some basic familiarisation with JOSM if you want more time periods, and TileMill if you want your own cartographic style or possibly QGIS, as used here).

This may seem quite complicated, but it removes all of the more complex stuff mentioned in your post: leaving the end delivery of an attractive map to simple pieces of HTML which can be readily created by modifying existing examples.

Coda: current examples on OHM include:

permanent link

answered 02 Sep '14, 20:20

SK53's gravatar image

SK53 ♦
accept rate: 22%

Thank you for the detailed reply SK53. It useful to have the examples of the historical maps you provided, plus the detailed options & various benefits/limitations of systems. I think this is going to be a much bigger project than the person who originally suggested it thought it would be. I'll have to go back to them and see how they want to move this forward.

(03 Sep '14, 10:22) garyg

I think you're correct that 1) OSM data may help you, and 2) the history data doesn't belong in OSM. If buildings/addresses in your area of interest are mapped in OSM (or you add them to OSM!), then you could download that data and add the historical data to it separately in your own database.

Using the OSM stack for this could be a good idea if you want people to be able to view and edit your data via the OSM tools. But, you could edit and display the data using other tools with less overhead, such as QGIS to edit the data, and display via a simple Leaflet map. Depends on exactly what you're trying to do and how you want to do it (ie--are you trying to crowdsource in some way, or just have a couple people doing research?).

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answered 02 Sep '14, 15:23

neuhausr's gravatar image

accept rate: 21%

Thank you for the very helpful response neuhausr. The intention is to have it crowdsourced (information provided by the local community), but only a couple of people would be involved in creating the map using OSM and associated tools (eg QGIS). However, it looks like it might be a steep learning curve to achieve this.

(02 Sep '14, 17:30) garyg

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question asked: 02 Sep '14, 13:07

question was seen: 5,834 times

last updated: 03 Sep '14, 10:22

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum