Open Plaques. The Museum of the Street est. 2009

Open Plaques is a community-based project which catalogues, curates, and promotes commemorative plaques and historical markers (often blue and round) installed on buildings and landmarks throughout the world. The service brings to life the history that plaques encapsulate to a larger audience by building the definitive and most comprehensive resource about these historical markers. The data generated by the project are free to use under a Public Domain declaration.

We show where plaques are, we identify who or what is commemorated, when they were there, and what they were notable for. We uncover this data through a process of painstaking research by our team of volunteer co-curators (if you spot a mistake, tell us).

Unveiling Minnie Turner plaque in Brighton

What exactly is a plaque?

It seems obvious, but not all signs are plaques. A plaque specifically connects a person/animal/event/building to a location sometime in the past. It is a geotag in time as well as space.

The purpose of collecting the plaques is to uncover the direct history of places. General plaques not denoting anything specific from history, and also memorial plaques (the kind you find in a church) to people or events that have no connection to the immediate vicinity fall outside our remit. Plaques erected primarily to denote the opening of buildings and businesses or awards given to buildings are also beyond the scope of the service, as are ones solely noting a burial site or grave.

If you are unsure if a plaque meets the criteria of Open Plaques just email us and we will let you know.

Minjoo Jalali plaque

You could get a new plaque put up

We are the worldwide open register for plaques but do not create any ourselves (yet). However, we do know people who can make them for you. In the UK, anyone can erect a plaque as long as they have the building owner's permission, it isn't a listed building, and are prepared to pay for it to be made. Check your local area to see whether the local council or civic society has an active plaque program and approach them with your nomination. Alternatively, there may be a national society that might be interested. Or you can go it alone. Many people have. We have a short list of suppliers that we can recommend if you contact us. If you do go ahead please say that we sent you as one day we might want to make one ourselves.

A dress of blue plaques

Use the data for a tourist app, a hackday, research, whatever

We first created Open Plaques because we wanted some interesting linked geodata to play with but everything cost money. We want you to have some fun with it. The data we generate is Public Domain, so is free to use for whatever purpose you desire. We love it when people acknowledge Open Plaques and link back to us but you are under no obligation to do so. The data generated by the project are free to use under a Public Domain declaration.
OpenPlaques data appears in The Royal Society of Arts Heritage Index, the Ordnance Survey points of interest database, and Findery. It has been used for a number of iPhone tourism apps as well as for treasure hunt games like Histonauts and the Digital Traces and Physical Places Tweasure Hunt. Hackdays like The CultureCode Hack and History Hackday held at the offices of The Guardian newspaper. The AI Cookbook included an open challenge to produce Optical Character Reading of plaques.

A collection of hackday shorts