Some context:

  • These are Dutch colonial maps of Indonesia from about 1910-1930
  • At the time there were limited roads and often villages were in the middle of the jungle and have since been abandoned.
  • Under Indonesian law, the primary administrative concept is the 'administrative village' which does not necessarily correspond at all to any physical village, and can be several hundred square kilometres comprising and splitting up multiple geographical places. For navigational purposes the administrative villages are not very useful for this reason. Often they have further administrative subdivisions, but these are again more regions than specific places.
  • For historical analysis, land ownership, and place naming, it is useful to overlay historical maps onto both satellite imagery and onto modern street maps using a tool such as Google Maps, OpenStreetMap or whatever.

The question is, given that I have 54 such maps each covering around 20,000 square kilometres in total, which are scans of map sheets currently in TIFF format, is there a good way to make the maps publicly accessible using some web tool such as Google Maps so that it is not necessary to download the images, etc.?

Consider that:

  • The scans are each 80 MB tiffs; I guess this could be reduced using a jpeg to 20MB without too much trouble.
  • The scans are sheet maps with some white space at their border, also each with their own key and legend. While it would be possible to crop the white space and key off, given that not all maps are of the same date, etc., and they do not match up 100% perfectly with each other, it's probably best to have each map as a separate object overlaid onto an underlying base map, each with adjustable transparency, so that you can compare the historical mapping with the current satellite imagery and when you scroll between maps fade out one map.

Possibly Google Earth is a good tool, but I'm not sure if the maps can be hosted remotely and all 50 made persistent and accessible via a URL?

2 Answers 2


A possibility to georeference, host and share maps is https://mapwarper.net/ - but be aware: check copyright restrictions before that!

The best place to host such old maps are libraries with map collections. They normally host scans of map they have in physical form. But maybe they would be willing to host them if they are relevant enought. I would contact the map collection of the Dutch National Library or any other department/library specialised in old maps: they have the specialists and professionals who know best what you could do with these maps and what thematical portals do exist where you could host the scans of your maps.

The site of the map collection of the National library of Indonesia seems to be down, I get a 404 Page Not Found error message when clicking on the map site.

Because it's about colonial history, this here could also be interesting: a web-portal Sources about slavery by the National Archives of the Netherlands.

See also Library of Congress Map Collection with keyword Netherlands and Indonesia or https://www.oldmapsonline.org for a digital collections of old maps.

  • Mapwarper 'mosaic' seems like it might do the job. The maps were downloaded from the Australian National Library; they were copied from the Dutch source by the US Army during WW2, though I have the Dutch originals as well - the US version is slightly nicer. #I had a closer look at 'oldmapsonline' and it looks like it uses georeferencer, but you can't use that yourself for more than 1 map without paying $25/month, which is not happening. It seems that universities have their own licences for it, but I'd have to see if I can access it that way somehow without paying.
    – thelawnet
    May 2, 2021 at 17:12
  • Ah, the maps are online already, at Austraian National Library? So what is the point to host them again somewhere else?
    – Babel
    May 2, 2021 at 19:58
  • 1
    they are online as downloadable zip files. They aren't online as overlays over satellite imagery or street maps
    – thelawnet
    May 2, 2021 at 22:13

You might consider doing the overlay in software like ArcGIS or one of the open source alternatives to it like QGIS, GRASS GIS, or uDig. Here are a bunch of examples made with QGIS: https://www.qgis.org/en/site/about/screenshots.html

I don't know too much about the software, but I'm pretty sure it is possible to do some sort of overlay in them. These maps can then be hosted on QGIS Cloud https://qgiscloud.com/ for free.

"With QGIS Cloud Free, all maps published on the internet are freely accessible by anyone, at zero cost. If you would like to limit the access to your maps, then QGIS Cloud Pro is the right solution for you."

There are a number of videos about how to publish such a map, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbThqbuqgj8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xCuGIutsH0

I think there are also some techniques for matching landmarks, etc... but unfortunately I don't know how it works, I'm not too familiar with this stuff myself. Searching for tutorials on this kind of software will probably be a lot easier now that you have the names, I think there is a lot of content out there.

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