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The online NLS archive for old aerial photos is open

The National Land Survey of Finland (NLS) opened an archive for old aerial photos for citizens, companies and organisations. 

Helsinkivantaan lentoaseman ilmakuva vuodelta 1932 ja 2020

The new archive is good news for many professionals. Old aerial photos are used, for example, in regional and municipal planning, the inventory of cultural heritage sites and research. In addition, genealogists and everyone interested in maps and, say, the history of villages can use the open access service.

The general public will have access to tens of thousands of photos, with the oldest dating back to the 1930s. You can browse and compare the photos using a tool built in the Paikkatietoikkuna service.

Aerial photos have various uses

In the Paikkatietoikkuna service, you can view individual old aerial photos or compare the most recent aerial photo with a old photo to see how the landscape has changed. This may be useful to identify what kinds of changes have taken place in forests as a result of silviculture or logging. Aerial photos also help to see how structural changes in agriculture and industry, as well as construction, have shaped land use during different decades. Furthermore, aerial photos can be used in landscape restoration or even in criminal investigations.

‘Aerial photos reveal many things that were not printed on maps at specific times. They are truly essential for various professionals who require old facts in their work. They may also be useful for museums and the travel industry. Previously, these photos needed to be ordered and compared separately. Now, the process is much simpler’, says Heli Laaksonen, head of cartography at the NLS.

Our important cultural heritage is preserved in digital format

All in all, the NLS aerial photo archive consists of 1.5 million photos, approximately half of which have been digitised. The archive consists of material produced by the NLS and an extensive set of photos taken by the Finnish Defence Forces and Blom Kartta Oy that have been donated to the NLS archive.

The digitisation of valuable aerial photos not only ensures their preservation, but also enables their varied use and easy editing and archiving. Opening the NLS aerial photo archive is an important step to increase the accessibility and openness of Finland’s old cultural heritage material. 

‘Processing old material is a demanding task. This is why not all areas are fully covered at the first stage. We are working hard to digitise the entire archive. After all, film material does not last forever. We are truly happy that we can give the general public and different organisations open access to the material’, Heli Laaksonen says. 

You can access old aerial photos at

The service works best when using a computer screen and mouse. Instructions for using the service are available in Finnish at

Read an article at Finland then and now: National Land Survey unveils online aerial photo archive

More information

Heli Laaksonen, head of cartography, National Land Survey of Finland, tel. +358 400 988 243,

Aerial photography
Old maps

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