Daily Archives: February 16, 2009

Bomb damage maps of Blackheath

Blackheath Bomb Damage Map from London Metropolitan Archives taken by Flickr user Yersinia

This map shows a colour-coded key explaining the severity of bomb damage in London after the WW2 bombings.  They are from the London Metropolitan Archives, and were photographed by Flickr user Yersinia.  There is also a key to the wider maps showing all of London here.

However, it seems an alternative path of destruction is being carried out by the London Metropolitan Archives, as all of this information is going to be digitally archived, and placed online.  “What could possibly be wrong with that?”, you may ask…  Well, all of the original data collected by the City of London would have been paid for by the people of London through taxation.  And the archives are going to be placed online by a private company called The Generations Network Inc., based in Utah, who run ancestry.co.uk.  But don’t worry because, as the City of London site helpfully points out:

We will provide free access to view the indexes and images through Ancestry.co.uk on the computer terminals in our public rooms.

I’ve just tried to access the ancestry.co.uk “shop”, and it seems that the privilege of viewing a birth certificate (for example) would cost me the rather spectacular sum of £20.  However, if I would like reprints on top of that, it will only cost me £10.  Bargain, I say.

Now, whilst I like the idea that Information screams to be free, I am painfully aware that bandwidth, servers, hosting, and archiving all costs money.  However, as mysociety has shown, there are much much better ways of achieving the same goals, without ripping off the people who funded the data collection in the first place.  The tide of euphoria around this idea in the US is quite astonishing at the moment, and this poster:

Code a Better Country

… should be required reading for whichever bureaucrat came up with the idea of selling our data off in £20 chunks.  For the geeks amongst you, this article  “Want to change the world?  Learn to Program” which was pointed out by O’Reilly (the blogger, not the builder in Fawlty Towers), is really good, and explains how Stimuluswatch.org was set-up in the US.

Further Reading:  Free Our Data.

9 Comments

Filed under blackheath