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Turning Historical Map into 3D Map

Turning Historical Map into 3D Map

Turning Historical Map into 3D Map

Software Used:

  • ArcGIS
  • QGIS
  • Blender

Source for the Old Maps and Digital Elevation Model The first step in the process is to find an old digital vintage map of an area with some relief and a decent image resolution

Turning Historical Map into 3D Map    Turning Historical Map into 3D Map

Historical maps are contemporary maps from a specific point in time, showing land use and settlement patterns as recorded at that point. Historians use historical maps for several purposes:

As tools for reconstructing the past, to the extent that maps provide records of features, landscapes, cities, and places that may not exist anymore or that exist but have been transformed

Historical maps can be challenging to read, hence their recent transformation into three-dimensional views. 3D Mapping technology is used to profile objects and create a 3-dimensional view that can be mapped onto the real world.

As the name suggests, it is a 3-dimensional representation of objects meaning it maps objects on the x, y, and z-axis. 3D mapping represents elevation and location, making it helpful in developing scale models of features in buildings or the Earth.

This added layer or rather added dimension helps visualize data and has increased the number of applications and use cases for Geodata.

The Following paragraphs give a detailed explanation of how to turn your historical map into 3D.

Software Used:

  • ArcGIS
  • QGIS
  • Blender

Source for the Old Maps and Digital Elevation Model

The first step in the process is to find an old digital vintage map of an area with some relief and a decent image resolution or if you have an old paper map of an area, you can scan and use it.

Tip: Look at the contour lines in the map and take note of the height and how packed or spaced the contour lines are – tightly packed contours have higher relief than spaced contours.

A map of flat lands will not produce the beautiful result we want, we need some mountainous terrain that will make the 3D effect pop up. A good source to get old vintage maps is the USGS TopoView which serves a large collection of georeferenced topographic maps covering the US.

There are dozens of other sources of old maps on the internet. Download the DEM of the area from the USGS Earth Explorer.

Georeferencing the Map

This is the first and most important step – we would use the ArcGIS software in georeferencing the map using the coordinates on the map to register the four (4) points around the map. It is important as the concept to create the 3D map is overlaying the old map on the DEM (Relief)/Hillshade.

After we have successfully georeferenced the map. We then create a polygon around the border of the map area. This will be used to clip the DEM to the map extent.

We’ll then create an outer boundary for the paper boundary of the map.


We’ll import the DEM and the shapefile into QGIS and use the create new raster tool ‘r.mapcalc.simple’ this will create a new raster from the DEM using the paper boundary polygon. Then we use the ‘r.null’ tool to calculate the null values. After creating the raster we’ll save it as a render format (RGB) ‘.tif ‘


We suggest watching a few videos on how to navigate a blender before moving on to the next steps. If you haven’t installed Blender yet, it can be downloaded Here.

Turning Historical Map into 3D Map

We hope the above steps will help you get the hang of using the ArcGis And QGIS Software for turning maps into 3D. You can also experiment with other kinds of maps and let us know how the transformation worked.

Turning Historical Map into 3D Map


Gis Training Requirements For Enthusiasts

Gis Training Requirements For Enthusiasts




Geographic Information System GIS is used to collect, organize, manage, manipulate, analyze, store and present many types of spatial data that deal with location intelligence.

When data is organized by its locations, we can see geographic patterns that allow us to develop a better understanding of how systems work, interact more effectively with each other, and prevent risky decision-making. 

Many people are beginning to understand the importance of acquiring geospatial knowledge, especially geography and geology students and other participants in the spatial field. If you are looking for the best resources to learn GIS, you have come to the right place.


Gis Training Requirements For Enthusiasts

First of all, it is imperative to note that not everyone can learn GIS. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it and the same goes for GIS and other Geospatial-related disciplines and learning. One important thing to have is underlying interest as the field expands with more knowledge daily. 

There are stages in the GIS learning process and the place to start from as a green-horn is of course the Beginners level. At this stage, the first thing you’ll need is a computer with perfect internet connections and you’ll also need to install some software. Usually, during the Beginners training course at our offices, we install the software for our students after giving them access. 

Not to worry, you can get this software for free when you register with us or visit our Geostore

The datasets we’ve compiled for students contain shapefiles with GPS Coordinates for a different locations in Nigeria. It contains Toposheets and a map with Nigerian boundaries and also a Political map of Nigeria. All of these are important in learning the basics of mapping. 

QGIS – Quantum Geographic Information System is free, open-source software that allows you to create, edit, visualize, analyze, and publish geospatial information. One great benefit of using QGIS is that it offers many free online resources and maps available to download at your fingertips. This can help you familiarize yourself with the basics of GIS learning on your own.

Perhaps the most critical software used by professionals and which you will get acquainted with at the professional stage of your GIS experience is ArcGIS by Esri. It is a desktop GIS application software used to make maps, analyze data, and share and collaborate. With ArcGIS, you get access to workflow-specific apps, maps, and data from around the globe.

Gis Training Requirements For Enthusiasts


One difference to note between both is that QGIS is an open source GIS software suite that has a popular desktop option, mobile, and web component while Esri’s ArcGIS is a commercially available suite of software that includes three desktop versions with varying levels of complexity, mobile, and web components according to your experience and expertise. 

If you’re thinking of a career in GIS, you should probably look toward improving your knowledge and skill set. The following are courses you can base on in your GIS learning journey. 

  • ArcGIS Online / ArcGIS.
  • Application development.
  • Database administration.
  • Python scripting.
  • Data editing.
  • Data Science / Spatial Analysis.
  • Field surveys and GPS etc.


We have compiled a GIS Masterclass Manual with all the above treated intricately as topics with all accompanying details, available on our Geo store.


You can join our Online Community of GIS experts by registering for our monthly training sessions. We offer Beginners, Intermediate, and Professional training with recognized certificates. 

Your journey to becoming a Geospatial expert begins when you decide to take the first leap. We hope the resources contained here will help your endeavor.




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