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GB1900: engaging the public in very large scale gazetteer construction from the Ordnance Survey “County Series” 1:10,560 mapping of Great Britain

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“Semantic” gazetteers should form a geographical “backbone” to our knowledge of the past, but they need to contain toponyms appearing in specific sources, to be under open copyrights and to be large, representing all the features of interest. Academic gazetteer projects are achieving the first two goals but are generally either limited to main settlements or cover small areas. The GB1900 project is creating a new spinal gazetteer of Britain from the Ordnance Survey’s County Series 1:10,560 second edition mapping from circa 1900. It will be under Creative Commons licensing. To date, c. 1.7 million features have been identified, and the final result is likely to comprise 3-4 million text strings plus coordinates: possibly the largest specifically historical gazetteer ever built.

This has been achieved through large-scale crowd-sourcing, using Zooniverse-based software. The article describes the project’s history, the software system and the transcription process. Over 1,000 volunteer transcribers have been recruited, and the article describes publicity methods, volunteer characteristics and motivation: it is argued that while “citizen science” projects appeal to a general desire to advance knowledge, map-based projects can appeal to more locally-focused individual interests: finding meaning in maps and places. We conclude with recommendations for other similar projects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-28
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Map & Geography Libraries
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2017


  • GB1900 paper JMGL Final January2017 Postprint

    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Map and Geography Libraries on 11.05.2017, available online:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 16 MB, PDF document

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