Presentation: Mapping Liverpool’s heritage

Julia Bryan, Clare Ahmad and Liz Stewart (National Museums Liverpool) outlined their plans for the use of maps as a way of accessing information in the History Detectives gallery for the new Museum of Liverpool.

Julia Bryan

Liverpool Museums - £74 million project. Biggest museums project in Europe to date.

Multidisciplinary team assembled to develop content for the new Museum of Liverpool – first phase to be opened at the Pier Head 2011.

Will explore and interrogate Liverpool history from the Ice Age to the future. Developing an interactive map of Merseyside. Free resource for the city and its tourists.

Context - Pier Head – iconic – place of departure and arrival in Liverpool.

6 galleries – 3 phases over a 6 month period.

1st phase: 2nd floor opening – Creative City and People’s City, atrium, Little Liverpool

2nd phase: Global City (ground floor)

3rd phase: 1st floor – Global City, Port City

People’s City: Court and merchant palaces. Settings animated with role play. Exploring issues such as employment, housing, health, WW1 exhibition, views over the city (8 metre high windows – view of Liver building)

Creative City: Exploring mythologies associated with the city – Creative artists from Liverpool – writers, comedians, performers, artists, musicians emerging from the city and perception of Liverpool in relation to this.

Window view – Mersey and Albert Dock.

Immersive experiences – intense audio-visual features – relating to issues such as extraordinary relationship Liverpool has with football, the Beatles etc.

Children’s Gallery (Little Liverpool):interactive River Mersey

Atria:Ben Johnson’s Liverpool Cityscape. Has so far had a profound effect on people - illustrative of the power of place.

Global City:Theatre showing 15 min films of Liverpool initially (later- out of hours), exploration of Liverpool as a gateway to the world, Liverpool’s role in postcolonialism etc.

Port City:Liverpool’s development into a prolific world port – importance of geography, chronological gallery up to present day and decline of port, regeneration etc.

Liverpool overhead railway carriage – sea view as it would have been, supported by film clips relating to many items in collection etc (through partnership with Mapping the City in Film).

History Detectives:Context for interactive map. Hub of museum – 3rd phase, very interactive centre, for visitors to explore the long history of Liverpool (Ice Age to Future) – seen as backbone of museum.

Importance of a chronology in the museum (this is a 38m long chronology), will be able to benchmark Liverpool history against other regional, national and international histories.

Engaging public interest in history through the power of place – interactive map, more resources have been put in than any other interactive feature in museum.

City Soldiers included – military history diary, exploring alternative perspectives.

Mini spotlight displays – will change over time – digital resource. As each spotlight is explored, information and images will be archived.

6 monitors for visitors to explore Liverpool history through time. Using digital resources to attract members of the public (rather than looking like a library).

Also a projected element on outer wall - related to interactive map on a large scale to entice people in.

Liz Stewart

Interactive map

  • A GIS-based map with an easy user interface which enables visitors to search historical data about Merseyside through investigation of place or themes.
  • Enables access to wide range of data on variety of topics through one easy means; image rich and easy to navigate.
  • Especially for local people and those with a local connection to investigate “their place”; ways in for people who do not know the city.

- Wanted to use aspects of collection that were already geo-referenced; enable access to information for visitors in a straightforward way.

- Consultation with people – suggested people responded well to maps (especially looking at own areas etc).

Have looked at other ways museums have used maps(e.g. Museum of London postcode project; geo-referenced an item in museum collection in relation to each part of the city, some lead to personal stories about individuals from the area).

Advantages of this project:

  • Covers the whole of London
  • Uses Museum collections in innovative way
  • Levels of data searchable

Disadvantages of this project:

  • Only one object per district
  • Not geo-referenced in a specific way
  • Doesn’t bring in broad range of datasets

Other GIS uses- some have used Google Maps (e.g. British Library has attached historic maps to point data, London Twirls Project – maps every shop in London that sells Twirls). Can attach data to a specific point.


  • Uses pre-existing maps
  • Simple userface (google maps style)


  • Only point-data
  • Inputted point-data is map-based itself and would be highly effective if layered

National Museum Liverpool’s previous use of mapping interactives:

  • Magical History Tour
  • ‘Our City’ for Museum of Liverpool Mapping Interactive
  • International Slavery Museum

Magical History Tour– Pilot project; map that started with place name, could zoom in on a particular area, then look at specific information (re. place names, archaeological finds etc).


  • Tested our Liverpool content
  • Searchable by place with pages on specific historical periods


  • Lack of specific geo-referencing of data
  • Only a limited number of “sites” chosen per area

International Slavery Museum

- Slave plantation model – use screens to explore sites in an archaeological manner – offering a way in to a particular place. Again able to zoom in on specific areas and discover more about them.


  • Model provides context for stories
  • Visually impressive highlighting of areas with personal stories related to that place reflected on screen


  • Can’t create model map of large enough scale with decent detail
  • specific dots, lines or polygons can’t be created

‘Our City’ Project– used to collect data and test ideas (via website and Flickr)

People can link their own special places with a photograph, drawing, model etc. Developed through consultation settings with a variety of community groups. A way of working with the local communities to input into the mapping interactive; developing content.

Clare Ahmad

Clare’s role largely been in co-ordinating and managing the data currently being inputted onto an Access database.

Provided a demo of how the Museum would like to see the Mapping Interactive working (work in progress currently).

Data Capture

  • Have been using a selection of reliable geo-referenced datasets and historic and contemporary mapping for Merseyside.
  • Pilot studies carried out in Birkenhead central (CH41) and Sefton Village (L29) comparing quantities of data for a variety of the themes between an urban and rural area.
  • The pilot studies involved taking some of own images whilst plotting the locations with a handheld GPS.
  • The data collected has proved useful in judging how densely populated an area can become with ‘dots’, or not depending on the location.

Questions arising from museums:

  • How could we develop the data usage?
    • eg. use of hyperlinks embedded within the interactive to interlink themes and create trails through storylines?
  • How could polygons be made to work on a user-friendly front end?
    • e.g. biological records of animals / plants / bird sightings which are usually plotted by kilometre squares
  • How does our data structure tie in with City in Film’s data? How easy is it to link moving images into this sort of multimedia with text and images etc.?