For those with a passion for maps, looking for historic Overview maps and the like, there’s wonderful news, as the David Rumsey Map Collection has recently been placed online, made available to the public to view and download, a treasure trove of cartography information, free to access. The collection, with more than 91,000 maps, started over 30 years ago, and is now housed by the Stanford University in the US.
Back in the 80s, David Rumsey, the President of the digital publishing company Cartography Associates, began building the collection, starting with maps of North and South America. The collection is unique when it comes to the scope of geographical, illustration and Overview maps detailing the United States, thanks to having materials dating from the 16th all the way to the 21st centuries. Among the collection are 19th-century ribbon maps, as well as the world’s largest map of the early world, showing off the wide variety of artistic maps that have been made throughout history.
The collection is now available in the internet, allowing for search of maps via category, covering Celestial, Pictorial, Maritime, via time period, like the US Civil War, as well as by continent. The maps can be viewed in high-resolution, downloaded, and shared, while also allowing for the ordering of prints. For those wondering how the historic maps apply to the modern world, and how the world has changed, some of the maps in the collection allow for geo-referencing, which places the chosen map next to an updated world map, allowing for a good examination of how the maps overlay.
As for Rumsey, he states that seeing his private collection become accessible to the public is a dream. He says that, by putting all these maps, globes, charts, and atlases online, in one place, alongside their related materials, lets people see how maps grow one from another in time, incorporating the discoveries of earlier maps, while correcting their inaccuracies, which creates a visual flow of history over centuries.
Rumsey says that, by putting up his collection in one site on the web, he hopes to recreate that special sense of connection between maps and history, as well as letting people see the wonder of these old materials, which has not been seen by most.