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Explokart: Exploration of Maps and Mappings, 16th-20th Centuries

Explokart (stands for Exploratie en toegankelijkheid van Nederlandse kartografische documenten, 16de-20ste eeuw) is a network of map historians and curators at the University of Amsterdam. The research group has been established at Utrecht University by Prof. Günter Schilder in 1981, but moved to the University of Amsterdam and Allard Pierson in 2013.

Description of the group

Members of the Explokart staff study the various types of maps that have been produced, sold and consumed in the early modern and modern Low Countries, as well as the mapmakers, map editors, patrons and clientele that were involved. In some cases, the maps and mapmakers are the focal point of research; in others, the societal relevance of maps, mappings and spatial knowledge is studied in and approached from wider cultural, political, economic and social contexts. From a methodological point of view, both document-based research as well as new digital methods including GIS are developed and applied. Each staff member has its own specific expertise: wall maps (Paula van Gestel, Günter Schilder), maritime cartography (Günter Schilder), toponyms and oversea cartography (Ferjan Ormeling), maps on images (Marissa Griffioen), atlases, globes and cartobibliography (Peter van der Krogt), curation and 19th-century cartography (Reinder Storm), urban mapping, map use and story mapping (Bram Vannieuwenhuyze). Knowledge transfer is one of the main missions of the Explokart team. The staff members undertake various initiatives in order to unlock and present old maps to the scholarly community and to the broad public, e.g. by publishing scholarly monographs, articles and detailed cartobibliographies, by collaborating to exhibitions, heritage projects and digital tools or by welcoming students and guests at Allard Piersons’s map room or GeoZone. In addition, they also train and supervise volunteers who want to publish the results of their map-historical research and welcome international and local scholars in order to share expertise and guide them through the very rich map collections in Amsterdam and elsewhere in the Low Countries.

Envisaged results

  • Publication of at least two new in the ongoing Explokart Studies in the History of Cartography series (Explokart/Brill): Geldriae Ducatus: Geschiedenis en Cartobibliografie van het Hertogdom Gelderland tot 1860 by Dick Blonk en Peter van der Krogt (scheduled 2020); Waterschapskaarten: Gedrukte waterschaps- en polderkaarten uit westelijk Nederland by Marc Hameleers en Wim Renkema (scheduled 2021). Several other monographs are in preparation as well; first versions of manuscripts are expected in 2021. 
  • Publication of three or more book volumes in the new series Mapping the Past (Brill), starting with Imperial borderlands. Maps and territory-building in the northern Indochinese Peninsula (1885-1914) by Marie de Rugy (scheduled 2021).
  • Publications of research results in national and international journals and separate book volumes.
  • Finishing of the Koeman’s Atlantes Neerlandici project (Volume V, scheduled 2021).
  • Launch and continuation of the digital web database Maps in Context (scheduled early 2021).
  • Grant of Explokart fellowships to national or international scholars for map-historical research in Amsterdam. The first two fellowships have been granted in Spring 2020.
  • Start of two PhD-projects (Marissa Griffioen and Anne-Rieke van Schaik).
  • Collaboration to map exhibitions and related activities scheduled by the Nationaal Archief (scheduled 2022), by the KNAG - Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap (scheduled 2023), and by the KZGW - Koninklijk Zeeuws Genootschap voor de Wetenschappen (to be confirmed).

Societal relevance 

Explokart members regularly deploy valorisation activities, sometimes at the University of Amsterdam and/or Allard Pierson, but also often in collaboration with external institutions, partners and colleagues. Peter van der Krogt and Bram Vannieuwenhuyze are responsible for a range of courses, seminars and tutorials in historical cartography, part of the BA and MA programs of the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Book Studies. They also teach the special course Historische cartografie in vogelvlucht, organised yearly by Allard Pierson and which is open to professionals from the heritage sector and for the broad public interested in old maps. Reinder Storm, Peter van der Krogt and Bram Vannieuwenhuyze are regularly involved in activities organised by Allard Pierson, such as the yearly Summer School History of the Book, the realization of the GeoZone, or welcoming and showing around history and art history BA students at the map room. In 2019, Explokart members were involved in organizing exhibitions on map history at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam and the Royal Library in The Hague; in the near future, map exhibitions are scheduled in The Hague, Amsterdam and Middelburg. Some of the staff members contributed to the successful book De geschiedenis van Nederland in 100 oude kaarten, published by Lannoo in 2019. Explokart members are actively involved in national and international networks in the field of historical cartography, e.g. Imago Mundi and its eponymous journal (Peter van der Krogt); International Journal of Cartography (Ferjan Ormeling); ISHMap - International Society for the History of the Map (Bram Vannieuwenhuyze); ICA - International Cartographic Association (Ferjan Ormeling, Bram Vannieuwenhuyze); Barent Langenes Stichting and its journal Caert-Thresoor (Peter van der Krogt, Ferjan Ormeling, Reinder Storm and Marissa Griffioen); WGK - Werkgroep voor de Geschiedenis van de Kartografie (Reinder Storm); GIN - GEO-Informatie Nederland and its journal Geo-Info (Reinder Storm, Ferjan Ormeling); Tiele-Stichting (Bram Vannieuwenhuyze); and Stichting Cartographiae Historicae Cathedra (Paula van Gestel). Both in 1989 and 2019, Explokart hosted and organised the International Conference on the History of Cartography (ICHC) in Amsterdam. Explokart also has close contacts with the KNAG - Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap, the society that gathers all geography teachers and geographers in the Netherlands. Allard Pierson has a substantial part of the KNAG’s map collection on loan.

Research Group Type: Network group
Duration: 2021-2025

Group Coordinators

Prof. dr. B.J. (Bram) Vannieuwenhuyze

Faculty of Humanities

Capaciteitsgroep Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen

Members of the research group 

  • Paula van Gestel-van het Schip
  • Marissa Griffioen
  • Peter van der Krogt
  • Ferjan Ormeling
  • Günter Schilder
  • Reinder Storm
  • Bram Vannieuwenhuyze

NB: International or Dutch Explokart fellows who come to Amsterdam will also become (temporary) members of the Explokart staff

Institutional or professional partners

  • Allard Pierson