News

Smart map offers rare glimpse of Singapore’s past

By Clarice Africa 30 Jan 2015

The National Library Board (NLB), the National Archives of Singapore, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Esri Singapore have worked together to create an interactive smart mapping application that allows visitors to study how Singapore’s cityscape has transformed between 1852 and the present time.

The smart map is part of Geo|Graphic: Celebrating maps and their stories, the NLB’s first festival on maps and mapping, which features more than 140 rare and historical maps.

The map application leverages advanced Geographic Information System (GIS) technology – the same software behind URA’s urban planning and design work.

The application’s simple and configurable capability makes it easy for users to compare 18th century maps with a contemporary view of the island – creating compelling before-and-after imagery of the city state’s early history.

Among the maps showcased in the application are: the earliest known map published in 1852 that details the interior of Singapore Island; a map from 1932 which shows the island at the height of the British colonial rule; and, a map from 1954 which shows the island in the period when Singapore was moving towards self-government and independence.

Esri Singapore CEO Thomas Pramotedham said maps showcased in the application offer Singaporeans a richer understanding of history that cannot be captured in words alone.

“Historical maps serve as snapshots of how cities change; and provide us with a sense of how the needs and aspirations of the community’s people have evolved,” said Mr Pramotedham.

 “As users navigate around the smart map during the festival’s opening, many commented they never knew neighbourhoods such as Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio and Bedok were in existence since the 18th century.

 “Applications such as this demonstrate how smart maps can be used to breathe new life into Singapore’s history and enable citizens – now and for generations to come - to learn more about our past, in ways we never imagined.”

The festival – Geo|Graphic: Celebrating Maps and their Stories – was launched on 15 January 2015 at the NLB building in the presence of Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

The festival boasts more than 120 maps loaned from various partner universities and organisations such as the National Archives of the United Kingdom, the British library, the Leiden University of the Netherlands and the Utrecht University library.

The smart map can be found on “Island of Stories: Singapore maps”, located at Lee Kong Chian reference library, level 11 of the NLB building on Victoria street.

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