Mapping the campus

We’re currently looking at a project which involves maps of the Ormskirk campus which – if you read my 125 by 125 blog – I find quite exciting. Maps are important for lots of things the University yet we’ve never had very good maps. We have access to lots of them, but nothing that’s quite suitable.

For example, our own campus map has all the buildings labelled and is pretty up to date but it’s not to scale or plotted against a real grid system.

We also have a 3D drawing of campus which is used in the prospectus and online in the interactive campus map. It looks nice but again it’s not accurate enough for plotting real positions and it’s a pain to keep up to date.

Google Maps is to scale but missing lots of buildings and some websites are moving away from it to other services because they’ve started charging for heavy users, not something I think they’d do to us but they could add advertising:


View Larger Map

Microsoft’s Bing is even worse:

The Ordnance Survey have released some of their data, and we also have access to it through Digimap, but questions remain over licencing and the frequency of updates.

We can do better than this by building on what has already been done by OpenStreetMap.

I’ve mentioned OpenStreetMap several times before going back three years:

[Mapumental’s] base mapping layer is from OpenStreetMap – a project to create a free (as in beer and speech) map similar to the ones available from Google Maps, or even from the OS. It’s created by volunteers who go out with GPS and plot the routes online. Almost all major roads are on there already and certain areas have excellent quality coverage – take a look at South Liverpool for an example of how good it can get.

The quality of mapping on OSM for Edge Hill hasn’t been great – in the past I’ve taken the odd GPS track or paths around campus and added them but generally it’s been pretty poor as you can see from this recent capture:

Edge Hill Before (CloudMade)

Recently though, the quality of aerial imagery available in the OSM editor has vastly improved making tracing over the campus a viable option where it hadn’t been before (buildings going back as far as the Faculty of Health were missing from Yahoo!’s images). A few hours work has resulted in a much more complete map of campus:


View Larger Map

As I write it’s still not perfect but all the buildings are plotted along with roads, footpaths and many of the facilities we have on campus like cafes and shops. OpenStreetMap allows anyone to make corrections and add missing features which will help keep it up to date.

Now that we have an up to date base map we’ll be looking at ways we can make use of it in some exciting forthcoming projects which I hope we’ll be blogging about soon!

12 thoughts on “Mapping the campus

  1. Mike Nolan Post author

    You’re right and the beauty of OpenStreetMap means I can fix it now and it’ll be live in minutes. I’ve spent months trying to get Google Maps to remove references to Edge Hill University College which keep creeping in!

  2. Roy

    Can you move the Edge Hill University label from Milton House to somewhere more central, like the courtyard?

  3. Mike Nolan Post author

    Positioning of labels is determined programmatically which limits the amount of control we have over where things appear. I’ve made these two changes but in doing so we lose the link between Milton House and Edge Hill University – it could be just another building on Ruff Lane. The centre of the area representing Edge Hill is where the name is placed which – including the land to the water tower – places the marker on the sports pitches; not ideal so I’ve added a point marker over the courtyard.

  4. Dan Wiggle

    If you’ve not seen what we’ve been up to at York with our maps already, it might be worth having a quick look – we were in a similar boat and went the OSM route too. We were very fortunate to have a students’ union who had populated the map data pretty well already, so we just had to stitch it all together.
    We’ve a couple of blog posts about it all:
    – An intro to the new map http://yorkwebteam.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/introducing-our-interactive-campus-map.html
    – A behind-the-scenes look at making the map http://yorkwebteam.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/behind-scenes-of-our-new-map.html

  5. H L W

    Would be good if you could mark a few extras on there
    Eg. Campus Support Security, Toilets etc

  6. H L W

    Cafe Rewind should be in the centre 3rd of FoH and could you possibly mark on the ‘Rose Garden’ too?
    Is there any way you could correct the fact that the footpath in front of the LINC building goes through the building? I’m assuming this is because it goes under the shelter of the roof of the building, but it just looks a little odd having the path through the building

  7. H L W

    Performing Arts building is not labelled other than Rose Theatre and could you individualise Hall Names within Forest Court?

  8. Mike Nolan Post author

    Thanks for the feedback, H L W! I’ve moved Cafe Rewind, added the laundry and fixed the LINC path.

    Toilets are slightly trickier – all the ones on campus are part of other buildings and it can be tricky to plot where in a building the toilets are. I’m going to leave it off OSM for now (though others could add them!) but this is the kind of thing we’d add as an extra layer when we use the maps online.

    Performing Arts and Rose Theatre – you may be aware of the building work going on there at the moment – I’m hoping to update with the new design and work out which bits should be called what.

    I wasn’t aware that Forest Court had multiple hall names – I’ve just known it as the one name but I’ll see how that can be reflected without detracting from the better known name.

  9. H L W

    The names for Forest Court are:
    Ash
    Beech
    Cedar
    Elm
    Holly
    Larch
    Maple
    Oak
    Rowan
    Willow
    ABC are along the side nearest running track,
    EH in that corner
    LM in opposite corner
    then ORW along the far side nearest to St Helen’s Road
    Then at the far end of Forest Court near the car park/roundabout is Magnolia (which is used as a multi-faith prayer room) so that should probably be included too

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