What happened to old OS maps?

I’ve talked in previous posts about the new head office we’ll be moving to later this year and how excited I am about a shiny new building – but what about all that packing? If you think that there are around 1,100 of us currently living in a building intended for around 3,500–4,000, you can imagine how much space we’ve got. And if you think about what you do with any spare space in your home (come on, I bet your lofts, garages, sheds and cupboards are packed to bursting!), then you can imagine the task facing us after 40 plus years at Romsey Road.

Paul’s already updated us on the historic artifacts we’ve uncovered, but there are also thousands and thousands of old maps and map-related records. So, what do we do with them? There are actually several routes we follow. Our Historic Map Archive has been used to complete collections and libraries up and down the country for example.

A photo of one of the maps being transferred to The National Archives

A photo of one of the maps being transferred to The National Archives

But that was quite an easy one. What would you do with a large scale metric survey of Shetland? It was actually gratefully received by The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Even more unusual has been the discovery of a 30-foot aerial photo covering the length of Britain. Dating from 1942, it was a training flight by the Spitfire Air Reconnaissance based in Scotland. It has now been passed to The National Archives (TNA) at Kew.

Aside from the unusual cases, the majority of our records are transferred to TNA as they are of historic value. We have trig records (our surveyors used them to show where measuring points were) which often include an old photo of a former surveyor pointing at some item on the ground!

There are also flight plans being packaged up and transferred to TNA. Before 2000 all our aerial photography involved photos and films, and the flight plans were used to show exactly how the images were captured along a route. This helped our colleagues with their digital orthorectification. This involves removing any height distortions in a flat photograph of the earth’s service so that the orthorectified image accurately reflects the position of features on the ground.

So, that’s what we do with our old maps. Before you know it, our old maps could be in deep store in a redundant Cheshire salt mine under the safeguard of the TNA. Or they could be in your local library, waiting to be used!

You may also like

100 years of getting people outside – celebrating Ellis Martin
Welsh and English trig pillars completion
Benchmarks added to OS Maps
Remembering Brigadier Martin Hotine

3 Responses

  1. Brian Williams

    Huh. National Archives. Yet more stuff we’ll only be able to see if we are prepared to hand over wads of cash. I suppose access will be outsourced to a private company as per the census records. Like those, all the material you are handing over _will_ have been paid for by the taxpayer, (so no smokescreen about being self-supporting there), yet this wealth of material will only be able to be accessed by a modest few people.

    How nice it would have been if some of (e.g. the 1942 photograph) could have been scanned and made available to the public. Small comfort to know it will be stored in a Cheshire salt mine. Bah.

  2. Trevor Arbery

    used to cut up the old paper copies and turn them into note pads for the surveyors to use in the field in the good old days

  3. @Brian – the big advantage of our archive largely being handed over to public deposit libraries and The National Archives (TNA) is that more people will be able to access historic maps and records. I’ve certainly accessed historic mapping at a library free of charge in my previous life as a history student and the TNA website also says there is free access and admission http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/visit/ . By handing them over we’re opening them up to be seen, rather than being stored out of sight at our head office.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name* :

Email* :