Mapping Lost Edinburgh

Maybe you know the ‘Lost Edinburgh’ (LE)? Images of Edinburgh stretching back to the beginnings of photography are the basis of regular posts on the Lost Edinburgh facebook page. They are obtained from both public and private sources, and are often surprising, which is their charm, and always informative. Cityscapes and street scenes, tenements and trams, posters, events, and leisure activities are the main subjects of these posts. LE informs and reminds us of what was, and what is the basis of the present and future Edinburgh. More than 128,000 followers like the LE page – the equivalent of one in every four of Edinburgh’s population.

Image of Portobello Beach, Edinburgh, in 1957. Image credit: Lost Edinburgh

Image of Portobello Beach, Edinburgh, in 1957. Image credit: Lost Edinburgh.

At present there is no easy way to search the 4000+ LE images, and this is where MESH – Mapping Edinburgh’s Social History – is adding significant value by developing a searchable and enriched database of these images. Descriptors such as subject matter, street, activity, and date, together with captions, descriptions and historical information have been inserted, and the copyright and provenance of images obtained, whenever feasible. In addition, coordinates and orientation have been identified using OpenStreetMap (OSM), a detailed and accurate map on a par with the Ordnance Survey’s MasterMap and which has the advantage of Open Access. The outstanding quality of OSM in Edinburgh has been obtained thanks to the massive mapping effort of the MESH team.

With all these refinements, we now have a searchable database for the LE images which can be queried on a thematic, temporal and/or spatial basis, and superimposed on an OSM map. All this work will be completed in May 2016 and made publicly available online.

The expectation is that Mapping Lost Edinburgh will encourage greater enjoyment of LE images. It will provide a new way for the general public to understand and contribute more fully to the history of Edinburgh.

– Richard Rodger, David McLean, Wilson Smith, Eric Grosso, and Sophie McCallum