Palestine Open Maps (POM) is a platform that uses mapping technologies in collaboration with researchers to showcase visual stories of the geographical transformation of historic Palestine over the last 70+ years. The project combines 1940s British Mandate of Palestine survey maps with present-day maps, historic and modern data, photography, and oral histories to create searchable and comprehendible maps.
The project is creating a space for the collective digitization of Palestinian maps and the information therein to build immersive storytelling experiences. It is simultaneously developing the technology that produces 3-D topographic models exemplified by POM.
Sourcing Data for Palestine Open Maps
Palestine Open Maps combines maps with data, photography, and histories to create its interactive, searchable platform. The oldest maps were produced by the British Mandate’s Survey of Palestine and the Palestine Exploration Funds. POM sourced these public domain maps from several institutions, including the National Library of Israel, the National Library of Australia, and the David Rumsey Map Collection.
The data, photographs, and histories emerged from a number of sources, including digitized data compiled by Salman Abu Sitta of the Palestine Land Society, Palestine Remembered, and Zochrot.
The Palestine Open Maps project was initiated in March 2018 by Visualizing Palestine and Impact Data Lab (a Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation network Studio X Amman workshop). Visualizing Palestine continues to develop the platform with a team of individuals: Ahmad Barclay, Majd Al-shihabi (with the support of the Creative Commons Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship), Hanan Yazigi, Morad Taleeb, Henry Zaccak, and Bassam Barham.
About Visualizing Palestine
Visualizing Palestine (VP) is the primary developer of Palestine Open Maps. VP, an independent and non-profit laboratory, creates data-driven tools and works in partnership with civil society actors to promote justice and equality in Israel-Palestine.
The VP team of researchers, designers, communication specialists, and technologists is committed to keeping their process of creating visual stories for social justice open and verifiable. Here is a static and interactive Process Wheel that explains VP’s method from conception to production to reception.
Public Responses to Palestine Open Maps
Bloomberg reporter Mimi Kirk described Palestine Open Maps’ level of detail as “exceptional,” highlighting how the platform has revealed what Palestine looked like prior to 1948 in a way that has never been seen before.
In an interview with the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Majd Al-shihabi shares his personal motivation for contributing to Palestine Open Maps: “A second Nakba is happening slowly right now, and it will be complete when the last person [who lived] during the Nakba will no longer be with us. A big part of this push toward archiving is the nagging awareness that we have an entire generation of people we are losing, and with them all that memory and knowledge. If you don’t preserve your past, you will lose your future.”
See the Promised Land Museum’s Back Room display for Palestine Open Maps.
Support Palestine Open Maps’ Vision
You can support the Palestine Open Maps project and platform by sharing the website, subscribing to their newsletter, or becoming a member of Visualizing Palestine. They also invite individuals and organizations interested in collaborating to reach out through this contact form.
Learn more about Israel-Palestine and how you can support efforts for peace by visiting the Promised Land Museum.