Stichting Vrijwilligersproject EXPLOKART


"Exploration and accessibility of Dutch cartographic documents, 16th-20th century"

Research Program in the History of Cartography

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Old maps are the only documents that effectively provide a contemporary image of spatial situation as it was in the past. Therefore, old maps are indispensable resources for historical spatial research.

The research program of the history of cartography, entitled Explokart, was founded 1981 by professor Günter Schilder at Utrecht University. The name of the program is derived from "Exploration and accessibility of Dutch cartographic documents, 16th-20th century".
Explokart is dedicated to making an inventory, description, and facsimiles of Dutch wall maps, topographical maps, sea charts, hydrographical maps, and globes. The aim of Explokart is to offer guidance to the users of old maps. This is accomplished by informing the users about the specific characteristics of cartographic materials, as well as the problems involved in their interpretation. Explokart classifies these documents and makes them accessible to members of the discipline and to the general public.

As means of communication, maps are expressions of their times. Thus, to completely understand these documents, the investigator must delve into the diverse links in the communication process. That is, one must study the interaction among cartographers, publishers, and map users. In this light, archive research is indispensable to the work undertaken within Explokart.

Dutch cartography has played a key role in the dissemination of geographical knowledge about the world. The economic and political situation of the times allowed commercial publishers in the Netherlands to gain a monopoly on the production of maps, atlases, and globes from the end of the sixteenth century until well into the second half of the seventeenth century. Accordingly, there is great international interest in the study of cartographic documents from that period.

Utrecht University had until 2004 the only Chair in history of cartography. It functions as a hub of national and international contacts. A high level of expertise has been built up in Utrecht. Moreover, research in the department has led to the publication of several authoritative texts on the discipline. These have received international acclaim. The importance of the work conducted within Explokart was affirmed by the decision to designate the history of cartography as a priority research theme in faculty's research program. Explokart has a protected status, forming from 1996 to 2008 one of the four official 'jewels' of Utrecht University, thanks to the high standard of publications on the field.

Social relevance of the programme

Interest in old maps as a source of historical information has increased enormously during the last two decades. The history of cartography can provide insight into many other fields and disciplines; e.g. history, geography, mathematica, town- and country planning, archeology, art history, and the history of book printing and trading. All of these disciplines are more or less connected with the history of maps. Scientists often use the map as historical evidence.

The social relevance of the research program Explokart - now and in future - may be summarized as follows: the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Netherlands. This aim can be archieved in various ways:

Museum work is also being carried out. In cooperation with various museum, exhibitions have been prepared in which the cartographic document plays a key role.

See further the Self-assessment report 2000-2006.

Research projects

The Explokart research consists of several projects steered by the research issues. The results of these projects will be published in the form of books or multivolume series. A general characteristic of Explokart is that the research is highly individualised. This is due to the small size of the staff. Experience has shown that personal responsibility for a specific project has a positive effect on the output.

Research theme 1: reconstruction of geo-information products

Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica (Günter Schilder)
This study comprises a worldwide investigation of rare and significant published maps and wall maps published in The Low Countries from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Over the past thirty years, the body of extant materials has been investigated by the researcher. The results are published in English monographs, accompanied by full-size facsimiles of the most important maps. In this manner, these rare and sometimes unique documents are made accessible to interested cartographers, historians, art historians and others throughout the world. The publication of Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica aims to further the knowledge and appreciation of Dutch cartography in its Golden Age. Out of a total of ten volumes planned, seven of them have already been published. See http://www.explokart.eu/research/monumenta.html.

Van Keulen Cartografie (Cooperative project involving 5 scientific institutes, Explokart is represented by Günter Schilder)
The Van Keulen Cartography research project was initiated in 1995. The main aim of this project is to locate, study and catalogue the manuscript charts of the Van Keulen Company, and also the genealogy of the family and the firm's history. Five Dutch scientific institutions are jointly involved in the project: Maritime Museum Amsterdam; Maritime Museum Rotterdam; City Archives, Amsterdam; University Library, Leiden; and Explokart of Utrecht University. The results were published in 2005: The Van Keulen cartography Amsterdam, 1680-1885 / Dirk de Vries, Günter Schilder, Willem Mörzer Bruyns, Peter van Iterson and Irene Jacobs; with contr. By Nils Persson and Ton Vermeulen. - Alphen aan den Rijn: Canaletto/Repro-Holland, i.s.m. Van Keulen Cartography Research Project, 2005. - 633 blz. + katern Indexsheets. - ISBN 90 6469 807 4. This work contains a number of essays and a completely illustrated cartobibliography of about 700 ms-charts in colour.

Research theme 2: accessibility of geo-information products

Koeman's Atlantes Neerlandici (Peter van der Krogt)
This research involves the investigation of atlases published in the Netherlands from the sixteenth century up to the twentieth century. Each of these atlases, and the maps in them, will be produced according to the latest standards in bibliography and carto-bibliography. Ten volumes are planned, each of which is devoted to a specific group of atlases. Volume IV was published in 2010/2012. The series will replace the six volumes of Atlantes Neerlandici, published from 1967-1985 by prof. C. Koeman. For further information, see http://www.explokart.eu/research/atlantes.html.

Catalogue of the Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem (Peter van der Krogt in collaboration with Erlend de Groot of Nijmegen University) The Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem, the seventeenth century collector's atlas (Austrian National Library), offers a pictorial encyclopedia of contemporary knowledge ranging from geography and topography to warfare and politics. In 2004 the cultural value of this collector's atlas was underlined when it became part of UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. The aim of the current project was to prepare a catalogue of this collection which includes all 2,400 maps, plates, views and drawings in black and white reproductions with relevant cartographical, historical and art-historical notes. The project was finished with the sixth volume in 2008. For further reference , see: http://www.explokart.eu/research/vanderhem.html.

Research theme 3: reconstruction and analysis of geo-information flows, production and use

The cartography of the Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap (KNAG), 1873-1945 (Paul van den Brink)
In this research project the role of the Royal Geographical Society of the Netherlands is examined by contextualizing the many-sided cartographic initiatives taken by the KNAG since its inception till the end of World War II. The foundation of KNAG in 1873 marks a turning point in professional geographical research in the Netherlands. In sending out expeditions to explore the Dutch colonies, in supporting research into all aspects of geographical space and by offering various means to propagate and publish the results of these investigations, KNAG became a key player in developing and institutionalizing geography as a field of scientific study. In documenting the disciplinary emergence of geography, cartography provides an ideal instrument to demonstrate and describe the various stages in this process.
Published in 2010.

Development of thematic cartography in the Netherlands and its overseas territories (Ferjan Ormeling)
Although the drainage requirements led to some early contributions like the invention of isoline maps in the 1580s, the real development of thematic mapping in the Netherlands started in the nineteenth century. This research project aims to establish the use of cartographic visualisation techniques in order to inventorise, analyse and communicate the results of research into the geosciences and statistical surveys, not only in scientific publications but in educational materials as well.

PhD research

The use of GIS in historical cartography (Elger Heere, promotor: Ferjan Ormeling / Jelle Vervloet [Alterra]).
This research project consists of two parts. In the first part, the possibilities of the use of computers, with the emphasis on GIS, in historical cartography will be investigated. Examples of these possibilities are the description of old maps, the analyses of accuracy of old maps and the use of several GIS functions on old maps. The second part of the research project is an users research. By using methods, recently used in modern-cartography users research, which are developed in social sciences, an attempt will be made to get to know more about the strategies users of old maps develop in their use of old maps, and in their use of computers in their research.
Promotion: 27 June 2008.

The cartographical work of Von Derfelden van Hinderstein (Piet Broeders [associate researcher]; promotor: Günter Schilder).
Baron Von Derfelden van Hinderstein (1783-1858) was a self-taught geographer/cartographer. He collected the most up-to-date information about maps and the maps themselves (from all over the world). As a member of the dyke board he has drawn some maps of the river Lek between 1820 and 1829. From 1814 he was interested in Dutch east India. Till 1822 he drew maps of the bigger islands of the Indonesian archipelago based on older data. Between 1828 and 1837 he made about 300 drawings and sketches ('preparatoir werk') and tried to incorporate the most recent information he received from his wide network. In 1841-43 the 'Algemeene kaart van Nederlandsch Oost-Indie' [General Map of Dutch East India] was published. The current study's main objectives are to trace the different channels of information, the significance of the maps Dutch and colonial society, and the place of these maps in the history of cartography.
Promotion: 21 November 2006.

Volunteer research

Volunteers have made an important contribution toward the research-activities. In 1993 the staff started tutorials in the bibliography of maps for volunteers, who later formed part of a working group involved in a specific subject. The results of this research are published in the series Utrechts Historisch-Kartografische Studies (Utrecht Studies in Map History). The efforts of highly competent volunteers made it possible for Explokart to study topics in historical cartography that would otherwise have been left unattended by the tenured staff for lack of time.

In preparation


Dr. Peter van der Krogt (head of the program)
Prof. Dr. Günter Schilder (Former head of the program)
Prof. Dr. Ferjan Ormeling (Retired Professor of Cartography)
Paula van Gestel-van het Schip (editor-in-chief)
Please contact us at:
Universiteit van Amsterdam
Bijzondere Collecties
Oude Turfmarkt 129
1012 GC Amsterdam
Tel: 020 525 2339 of 2355

Laatste keer gewijzigd: door Peter van der Krogt