Georeferencing in ArcGIS Online

07-12-2019 12:50 PM
Status: Open
Occasional Contributor III

Here, I am talking about the ability to take a scanned map image, say from and bring that image into ArcGIS Online to georeference it. Yes, there are workflows to go from the Desktop to ArcGIS Online, but this would allow many users to completely untether from desktop GIS.

There are currently a couple of web-based georeferencers available, including the aging MapWarper, implemented by NYPL here:, as well as Klokan Technology's Georeferencer, which can be experienced at Klokan also provides a "pay to play" service that allows users to host a limited number of map images for georeferencing and provides GeoTiff download, WMS, WMTS and other services on the resulting data. 

The Klokan georeferencer leverages the Image Interoperability standard, which is quickly being adopted by many orgs in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) community for serving, sharing and manipulating imagery collections, including cartographic materials., as well as other venues like are using IIIF extensively, so a georeferencer that supports IIIF would instantly provide access to hundreds of thousands of historic  cartographic resources, including the Library of Congress' Sanborn Maps Collection, which will soon begin moving into the public domain.

This is really the last bit of major functionality needed to make ArcGIS Online a true replacement for Desktop GIS applications, particularly for academic research in the Humanities.


With the latest update to ArcGIS Online, it looks like StoryMaps 2.0 only imports from the new map viewer? This makes the need for a georeferencer even greater for us, as the new map viewer only has partial support for WMTS. We've had a workflow in place for students and faculty interested in using georeferenced maps but without the resources to use ArcGIS Pro locally (as our campus is still partially closed) where they copy the WMTS url of an already georeferenced map from a place like the David Rumsey Map Collection, and add it to their web maps. This works in what is now Map Viewer Classic; however, we get a service error when attempting to add these urls to the new Map Viewer. 

Prior to the April update, we had no issues displaying web maps with WMTS content in StoryMaps 2.0. Students would prepare web maps using Map Viewer Classic with WMTS content, and then add those to their StoryMaps. Now however, when they do, the WMTS content does not render.

In the new Map Viewer, if you try to add a WMTS link from the David Rumsey Map Collection, you get a service error. 

This creates a situation where we have to have a desktop to web GIS workflow. I understand that there will always be workflows/geoprocessing steps that should be done on desktop vs online, and that a workflow involving both is natural for GIS work. For academic institutions working with a diverse range of students and GIS experience however, this poses a challenge. Having georeferencing capabilities fully embedded in ArcGIS Online would help us a lot. 


Howdy @StaceMaples, any updates on this? I'm still stuck on public school Chromebooks... ArcGIS Online is all I've got.

Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi! You're my only hope! 


Hello,  any updates from ESRI on this?  Trying to help a student.  The school only has access to ArcGIS Online.


It's 2023, any word on this?


With the February 2023 update, Map Viewer added support for a new media layer. This layer enables you to position images on your map, such as those downloaded from the David Rumsey collection.


Obviously these capabilities are not as robust as the true georeferencing capabilities of ArcGIS Pro, but do provide a way for you to place and position images on your map. This Instant App uses a map that has lots of examples to view - use the bookmarks tool in the upper right for navigation.

More info: