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Charting the Future I


Over the years, as we push more and more of our maps onto the web, such as Pieter Goos' Zee-Atlas, 1672, from which the below image was taken, we ask… ...what do we do with all this stuff? do we make digital maps meaningful?

One approach is through our blog, where we highlight various places and themes depicted. Often there is much more to read between the contours, about, among other things the social, geographic and cultural mix from where the maps were generated; something we, in future posts, will take the time to illuminate.

Another approach to extend the reach, utility and meaningfulness of our maps is through digital geographic indexing. Our staff has thus far created map indexes for close to 1/3 of our 10,000 digitized maps, which you can read about here and download here, in effect opening an opportunity for readers to access our collections geographically.


And while schematic and geographic indexes serve a much needed function, they merely point to the next logical steps in the presentation and re-purposing of map images in a web context.

The first step is placing the maps themselves (as opposed to outlines of the map coverages) into geographic context, or put another way, turning pictures of maps into digital geospatial information, where a pixel can be read by a computer as a pair of coordinates, as latitude and longitude.

These images can then, in turn, be rendered using tools such as web map servers and the ubiquitous Google Earth. The image below is Plate 1 from William Perris' Maps of the City of New York, 1852, georectified and then rendered in Google Earth.

Stay tuned. In my next post I'll go the details about how we "stretch" maps for web presentation. We will also explain how you too can participate.


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