Unlocking Historical Maps of Southeast Asia:
Collections, Circulations, Publics

The Unlocking Historical Maps of Southeast Asia webinar series facilitates discussion among historians, institutions with map collections and digital humanities scholars working with historical maps. 


23 September 2020, 19:00 – 21:00 SGT

What are the fields of production, reproduction and use in which historical maps circulate? 

This session invites historians of cartography to reflect on the production, reproduction and circulations of maps, past and present, with specific reference to the mapping of Southeast Asia.   




30 September 2020, 19:00 – 21:00 SGT

How do scholars use historical maps in the crafting of their spatial histories? 

This session invites scholars of historical maps of Asia to reflect on how they have used maps in their work. What can we learn from historical maps? What conventions shape the development of cartography, and how are these reflected in the historical cartographic record of Southeast Asia?




7 October 2020, 19:00 – 21:00 SGT

What cartographic collections are relevant to historical research on Southeast Asia? 

This session allows us to hear from some of the institutions that host significant historical map collections relevant to Southeast Asia. What kinds of maps, charts and other navigational aids exist in institutional collections that might assist historians in pursuing their research? How are historical maps and charts currently used by scholars? What are some of the challenges of using historical maps as sources?




14 October 2020, 19:00 –21:00 SGT

How have historical maps be made more accessible to interested publics? 

This session allows us to hear from those scholars and curators who have been involved in the development of a public exhibitions and platforms for sharing/accessing digitised historical maps.  We learn about their aims and objectives, the audiences they hope to engage and the challenges they have faced in sharing collections with interested publics.




21 October 2020, 09:00 – 11:00 SGT

What technical tools unlock the content of maps and enhance interoperability? 

Historical maps are in important primary source in our understanding of geographical, urban, and colonial histories. How have researchers used data science, Geographical Information Science, International Image Interoperability Framework and digital technology (Optical Character Recognition and computerized visual analysis) to “unlock” historic maps, that allow us to understand historic developments in boundary changes, urban development, and land use?




The “Digital Historical Maps of Singapore and Southeast Asia” project is funded by the Ministry of Education’s Social Science Research Thematic Grant. We are developing an online platform to enhance public and scholarly access to, and understanding of, historic maps of Southeast Asia.

The platform draws on the Southeast Asia historical map collections of our partner libraries: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford; Leiden University Libraries; and the National Library of Singapore.

The platform will improve public and scholarly understanding of a wide range of digitised historic maps by offering new pathways of sense-making:

Curating– coordinating across collections and facilitating dialogue between collections

Unlocking – improving searchability of maps through enhanced metadata linked to spatial, temporal, and attribute content

Interoperability – enhancing the understanding between maps by drawing on tools of geolocation, overlay, warping, Geographic Information Science (GIS)-enabled attribute extraction

Augmenting – extending meaning of maps by linking them to other historical data sets (historic images, archival manuscripts, scholarly references)