Pre-Site Visit Reflection NYPL

I’m looking forward to our visit to the New York Public Library map room. I’m very fond of that library; when I was a kid I used to sit on the steps and talk to the lions, Patience and Fortitude. I got a library card as soon as I could print my first name, though I mainly went to my local branches to take out books. I’m also looking forward to the visit because I’ve never been to the map room and I’ve always liked looking at maps. I really like geography so I find looking at old maps very interesting. I collect city maps whenever I travel—and of course I collect subway/metro/underground maps.

Matthew Allen Knutzen’s article, “Unbinding the Atlas: Moving the NYPL Map Collection Beyond Digitization,” was fascinating. I hadn’t thought much—at all—before about the process of digitizing paper maps. It’s an amazing project: not just simply putting maps online, but coordinating them with all sorts of other data about the region displayed and making them searchable not just by area names but by coordinates of longitude and latitude. That means it will be possible to find a map of a region even if the region had a different name or was still unnamed. It will be possible to visualize the changes in a region over time. An earlier project discussed, Building a Globally Distributed Historical Sheet Map Collection—“centered on a set of 776 topographic maps published in multiple editions by the Austro-

Hungarian Empire from 1877 to 1914”—would have been incredibly useful for another class I’m taking right now on immigration history. My own ancestors came from the Austro-Hungarian Empire during exactly those years.

It will be interesting to see the NYPL’s map collection, hundreds of thousands of maps spanning centuries—and it’s exciting to think that in the future I’ll be able to search many (most? all?) of this material online.


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