Changing the Way We Look at the World


Most if not all of you reading this post will at least be familiar with Google Earth, which is a great tool to learn about the world today and hone your geography skills. However, for historical maps, I’ve yet to see a better site than the David Rumsey map collection. From the website’s intro:

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection has over 13,600 maps online. The collection focuses on rare 18th and 19th century North and South America maps and other cartographic materials. Historic maps of the World, Europe, Asia and Africa are also represented. Collection categories include antique atlas, globe, school geography, maritime chart, state, county, city, pocket, wall, childrens and manuscript maps. The collection can be used to study history, genealogy and family history.

Read an article about the collection, take a Flash Tour of the collection (requires Flash), or view 360° panoramic images of the collection space. You can also view Japanese Historical Maps or fine art images from The AMICA Library.

This is an incredible collection of historical maps, available digitally and for free! Because they are digital, there are different ways to sort, aggregate, synthesize, and look at the maps. The About page states:

Presenting individual maps in a digital format literally breaks the boundaries of an atlas’s bookbinding, allowing the viewer to view single maps independent of their original encasing. With Luna Imaging’s Insight® software, the maps are experienced in a revolutionary way. Multiple maps from different time periods can be viewed side-by-side. Or, the end user can create their own collection of maps by saving groups of images that hold particular interest. Complete cataloging data accompanies every image, allowing for in-depth searches of the collection.

The collection’s owners really seem to get it, also because the collection is copyrighted under the Creative Commons License

I like this resource a lot, because it echoes what Judy Breck has been writing about recently, in that learning should occur online because current knowledge has moved there. She calls this the “global virtual knowledge ecology” (p. 44).  Breck argues for schools to adopt a new attitude toward the Internet, take advantage of a new access to information, and above all, benefit from the new aggregation of knowledge made possible by the Internet’s open content and “interconnectivity within and among subjects” (p. 46). Especially these last ideas of open content and interconnectivity are important and relevant for the map collection.

All in all, a great resource, so go check it out. Just make sure your pop-up blocker is off for this site, but it’s well worth it. A fast Internet connection is recommended as well.

Image Credit: the David Rumsey Collection:


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