Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut
Preussischer Kulturbesitz

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Formal Indexing of the Historical Map Holdings in the IKAR Old-Map Database and Digitization of the Collection

Duration2 July 2009 to 1 November 2010
CoordinationDr. Gregor Wolff

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation [DFG])

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1. Co-applicant


2. Project Group

IAI staff

  • Daniela Rokoß-Heiß   
  • Olga Andreesen    

former IAI staff

  • Luis Aragón   


3. Short description

Point of departure

Ever since 1957 the IAI has been acquiring map materials on Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Iberian peninsula and its former colonies. The collection consists of some 72.280 maps and atlases that are of outstanding relevance to scholarly research; these include topographical maps, those treating of certain themes, city maps, road maps, and historical maps. Of prime importance are the valuable old maps pre-1850 and significant facsimile editions from the period 1525 to 1850. These are predominantly topographical depictions of individual regions and countries that serve as historical reflections of the state of cartographical knowledge at their respective periods of time, but the holdings also contain pictures and maps of individual cities. Regionally speaking, the main focus of this major collection is complete overviews of Central and South America, the Caribbean and the Iberian peninsula, some 1,950 maps total, to which scholars have had only restricted access thus far.


Using the “Sonderregeln für die Erschliessung von Altkarten” (“Special Rules for Indexing Old Maps”), the IAI’s present stock of old maps of Latin America and the Iberian peninsula are first to be formally indexed and then registered and digitized on a German-wide and international basis through the IKAR Database of Old Maps, the Common Library Network (Gemeinsamer Bibliotheksverbund GBV) and the special virtual library CIBERA. On the one hand, the digitization is an urgently needed measure for preservation of the valuable old holdings; on the other, it is of fundamental importance for research projects based on maps to be able not only to have the relevant title information but to see the map’s image so as to facilitate a purposeful integration of the materials into a research context. A digital directory of the maps also serves in preserving the historical maps and broadening their circle of users.

Task Schedule

The formal indexing and digitization of the collection consisted of six work phases.


Phase 1: incorporation into the IKAR Database of Old Maps and in the “Special Rules for Indexing Old Maps.”

Phase 2: cataloguing 250 old maps that consist of individual sheets. Phase 3: cataloguing some 220 maps to be found in six old atlases. Phase 4: cataloguing some 280 facsimiles of old individual maps.

Phase 5: cataloguing some 1,200 maps from 48 facsimile atlases.

Phase 6: concluding survey of the indexed catalogue data and clarification of complicated individual cases.


Together with the formal and thematic indexing of maps, the holdings had been digitized by a service provider external to the IAI.

Expected Results

It is through formal indexing and digitization of the valuable historical map holdings in the IKAR Database of Old Maps that these are registered both German-wide and internationally through the IKAR Database of Old Maps as well as via GBV and CIBERA. In this way the historically precious and singular holdings will not only be protected but the indexing situation will be substantially improved for scholars through the integration of the collection’s images into the respective catalogue entries.


4. Cooperation Partner / Institutions


  • Map Department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

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