Prowling around in historical maps of the Belgian coast and North Sea | Flanders Marine Institute

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Prowling around in historical maps of the Belgian coast and North Sea

Added on 2017-02-17
More than 200 historical maps of the Belgian coastal zone and the southern bight of the North Sea, dating back from the 16th to the 20th century, are made freely available on the website HisGISKust (Historical Maps of the Coastal Zone - by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and partners. Highly useful is that all the old maps are georeferenced to compare them in the current coordinate system. They can show precisely how our coastal and marine areas used to look like, and how they were used and named in the past.

Map: Flandria by Van Berckenrode Balthasars Floris from 1603. Collection Cultuurbibliotheek, Belgium. HisGISkust provides the georeferenced version of this map and 200 others in open access.

The initiative ‘Historical Maps of the Coastal Zone' (HisGISKust) enables digital access to historical maps (16th-20th century) with specific information about the (Belgian) coastal region and the North Sea.
Currently, more than 200 georeferenced maps are freely available for end users, in line with the Open Data movement (see Terms of Use). Furthermore, derived products, information concerning the geometric accuracy of the maps (following the methodology of Jenny & Hurni 2011) and relevant metadata are provided as well, in compliance with international standards.

HisGISKust was initiated by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), in collaboration with several partners (Cultuurbibliotheek, Province of West Flanders, Renard Centre of Marine Geology, the Provincial Archive West Flanders (PAWV), the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History (KLM-MRA) and the Museum of the Zwin Region (Sincfala)).

The collection includes maps from world famous cartographers from the 16th-18th century (Mercator, Blaeu, Visscher,…). In addition, some of the first detailed nautical charts are disclosed in HisGISKust (e.g. Waghenaer and Van Keulen). Hence, these maps may lead to a better understanding of the long-term dynamics of coastal regions, coastal change and the human impact in this region. Furthermore, all fishing maps from the Piscatorial Atlas (Olsen, 1883) were georeferenced, providing a unique insight in the distribution of historical fish stocks in the North Sea.

In the future, HisGISKust will continue to expand its collection of historical maps of the Belgian coastal zone and adjacent North Sea. Feel free to forward your ideas or suggestions. We also welcome new partners who are willing to provide maps for this initiative. Please don’t hesitate to distribute this message in your network.

Hans Pirlet
Senior Science Officer Policy Information
- +32-(0)59-34 01 78

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