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The David Rumsey Map Collection

“The David Rumsey Map Collection was started over 35 years ago and contains more than 200,000 maps. The collection focuses on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The collection includes atlases, globes, wall maps, school geographies, pocket maps, books of exploration, maritime charts, and a variety of cartographic materials including pocket, wall, children’s, and manuscript maps. Items range in date from around 1550 to the present. Digitization of the collection began in 1996 and there are now over 126,000 items online, with new additions added regularly. The site is free and open to the public. Here viewers have access not only to high resolution images of maps that are extensively cataloged, but also to a variety of tools that allow users to compare, analyze, and view items in new and experimental ways. Maps are uniquely suited to high-resolution scanning because of the large amount of detailed information they contain. In their original form, maps and atlases can be large, delicate, and unwieldy. Digitization increases their accessibility, helps to extend longevity by minimizing handling, and when combined with a robust online catalog, maps can be searched in a variety of ways. The site allows public access to rare maps that had been previously available only to a few. With Luna Imaging’s LUNA software supporting this virtual library, the maps are experienced in a revolutionary way. Multiple maps from different time periods can be viewed side-by-side. High resolution permits the inspection of detail with the same intimacy of viewing the maps in person, using a magnifying glass. Viewers can also create their own collections of maps that hold particular interest by saving groups of images together. Complete cataloging data accompany each image, enabling in-depth searches of the collection.  The collection is distinguished by American cartography illustrating the country’s history, with its changes in culture and population over time. Close inspection of the maps often reveals the growth and decline of towns, mining excavations, the unfolding of the railroads, and the exploration of the American West by European settlers. The depiction of westward expansion also features locations populated by indigenous peoples, including Indian reservations. The collection also includes European maps of the Americas that were influential to American cartographers. In addition, the collection’s geographical coverage spans the globe, with maps of superlative craftsmanship, historical significance, and beauty. Many maps of other parts of the world appear in different languages, such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Greek, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and braille. Connecting them all is the universal tongue of visual communication.”

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