King George III was a geohipster

History is boring. Well, at least it was when I went to school. It was only later in life that I realised the problem was with the teaching, not the history.

Maps in particular can bring history to life and make it exciting. When I worked for a company that sold historical maps, it struck me that people always seemed more interested in seeing their house on a 100-year-old map than a present one. And if their house wasn’t that old, they were still curious to see what was in its place previously.

But I digress. I should be talking about King George III.

Now that’s what I call a map collection

King George III, who was born in 1738, never travelled further than Weymouth but knew a lot about the world. That’s because, over his lifetime, he collected about 50,000 maps and sketches. His topographical collection eventually spanned the entire globe, with more than half of all items relating to areas outside Britain. There’s even a six-foot tall world atlas from 1660 that requires four people to lift it.

A river runs through it: One of 50,000+ items in King George's hip garage collection.

A river runs through it: One of 50,000+ items in King George’s hip garage collection.

The man obviously had a passion for maps and geography but, strangely, this doesn’t even get a mention on his Wikipedia page. But he was clearly ahead of his time in realising the value of mapping, and the diverse ways in which it could be used.

In other words, King George III was a royal geohipster.

Going digital – with your help

How do we know this? Well, the British Library recently opened this treasure trove and are now busy digitising its contents for the benefit of the worldwide public.

But there’s a slight hitch: they have neither enough budget nor enough people to make it happen. They need your help. So far they’ve raised half of their £1.2 million target which is required to put the whole map collection online.

This however does not include georeferencing, which they hope to achieve via their georefencer crowdsourcing page – using skilled and passionate people like you.

So go on, you know what to do. For questions or info just contact Emma.Johnson (at), +44 (0)20 7412 7034 (her details are also listed on the British Library website).



2 thoughts on “King George III was a geohipster

  1. History makes you realise that the teacher can often make a subject or not. Ephemeral material such as this is so valuable to an age where exploration and discovery of the world were leading to the enlightenment. A very worthy cause to preserve such an extensive collection of unique items that includes paintings and plans.

  2. Pingback: Thierry Gregorius: "Build a unique skill, stay focused, and never grow up"

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