A geography of maps

From time to time we will post some background story in this blog about an object in our collection.


An interesting visualization tool of the results of our georeferencing project is the so-called ‘Map Finder’: a Google world map on which all georeferenced maps are indicated with a red dot. This tool shows the spatial distribution of these maps. You can see it on the ‘Results’-tab of this blog.
We have to make some reservations with the interpretation of the pattern. Only a part of the maps is already georeferenced, only a part of the KITLV collection is digitally available, and only a part (although an important one) of all produced maps of the Dutch East Indies are kept in the KITLV collection. Nevertheless, the maps that are georeferenced up to now, can be considered as a random sample of late 19th and early 20th century maps of Indonesia. Therefore , the distribution pattern provides insight into the geographical variation in mapping intensity throughout the former Dutch colony.

The most striking is the mapping density on the island of Java. Clearly, this island was the center of the Dutch East Indies, with the capital of Batavia/Jakarta and other major cities as Bandung, Semarang and Surabaya. Moreover, Java is the most populated island of Indonesia. The island of Sumatra is in second place. Here, there seem to be some clusters around some of the major cities: Banda Aceh, Medan and Padang and surprisingly Bangka Island. The other islands are mapped less intensively, with only a clear cluster of maps in Southwest-Sulawesi around Makassar.

In general, it can be concluded that there is a correlation between the mapping density and the population density of Indonesia. Even more, the dot pattern matches with the coverage of the Dutch topographical map series of Indonesia. The most dense areas are more the same as those that are covered by the large-scale topographical map series.

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