Keeping Ontario on the map! Exploring our transforming landscapes online

April 28, 2017
Kara Handren, Metadata Librarian, Scholars Portal/OCUL

Map libraries are wonderful places, whose collections support patrons in their research, education, work and private lives. However, given the quantity of maps produced during any given period, libraries often have to make decisions to preserve only those maps that are of local relevance and significance, leaving their collections incomplete. The Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) has filled in the gaps for early topographic maps of Ontario, by bringing together over 1000 maps that had previously existed across dozens of institutions. This shared digital collection has been made available online just in time for Canada’s 150th birthday!

The collection is the result of a province-wide collaboration led by the OCUL Geo Community to inventory, digitize, georeference, and provide access to these maps. It includes georeferenced topographic maps at the 1:25000 and 1:63360 (one inch to one mile) scales, covering towns, cities, and rural areas in Ontario over the period of 1906 to 1977.

Historical maps like these are a wonderful resource that provide viewers the opportunity to explore the ways in which natural and man-made landscapes, and human cultures, have evolved over time. Early topographic maps in particular are a critical resource that present unique snapshots of a given time period, showing detailed information on features such as waterways, shorelines, boundaries, roads, railways, houses, barns, electricity lines, industry, agriculture, and much more.

In the present day, these maps will be a critical resource for researchers, local historians, planners, conservationists, engineers (and others)!

To learn more about these maps, visit us at our booth in the Expo space at Congress, or view our live demo in the Expo Event Space on May 31st at 12:15pm. You can also visit our website at, or contact the project team at