The David Rumsey Map Collection

The David Rumsey Map Collection is a production of Cartography Associates. The establishment was founded in 1996 by David Rumsey, who is also the director of Luna Imaging, a software enterprise system for managing online images. Rumsey's collection of maps stems from 1980 and is one of the largest private collections in the United States. The collection contains over 150,000 maps, 22,000 of which have been scanned at the highest resolutions and are available in many different formats on the website. The site has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association, as well as many other organizations such as Wired Magazine and TechTV. The high resolution maps the site contains is not the only point of attraction; it is their availability in a wide variety of viewing formats, something we will discuss.

The 22,000 maps available now attract a wide audience. It focuses on
rare maps from the 18th and 19th Century in North and South American,
though contains many others. The site is free. Given the large size of
maps and the detail they can contain, high resolution photography was
used to digitize the maps, and each viewing medium (more soon) allows
users to zoom to very high levels, among other features. For this
reason, the public can view images rarely seen by but a few individuals;
it also allows them to view these maps in comparison side by side with
other similar map from different time periods or regions, and therefore
allows you to witness the growth of regions over time as evidenced by
the changing maps over time. The viewing software also allows users to
save their maps in their own space, while searching the collection for
others to compare/contrast/superimpose. The images have in depth
metadata making search easy.


One way of viewing images from the collection, for some maps, is the use of either Google Maps or Google Earth. I include a screenshot of the Google Earth Interface above (the Google maps interface is similarly integrated).

Also, in the right column, you can click on the different versions of
the maps that, upon clicking, are correctly superimposed over the
present-day Google Earth Image.

As you can see, compass markings on the map indicate where further
maps can be found.  Thus, if you do decide to click on one of the
compass markings, maps at lower levels are included. I, for example,
clicked on the New York City option, and from there was presented with
new map images of New York City, as can be seen below:


Another feature is the Geographical Information System Browsers, both
in 3d and 2d.  The 2D GIS system allows for the integration of GIS data
with a select few (and growing) historical maps. For example, over 11
historical maps from the San Francisco Bay Area, from 1851 to 1926, can
be compared simultaneously. The geospatial data from GIS can in addition
be overlaid, thus allowing the user to compare in historical
perspective the development/changes in lakes, parks, state boundaries,
digital orthophotos, topographic mapsheets, and elevation models, among
other data.


The 3D GIS viewer is in its inception. One set of maps that have been
included are 3-D versions of Yosemite Valley. Use does require the
3dVIA viewer technology to be installed.

The main map browser, however, is known as the Luna Browser, and was
internally developed by Luna Imaging.

This browser not only allows users to zoom in on maps at high
resolution, it also allows many web 2.0 features. For example, from the
maps a user selects, you can create dynamic presentations and slideshows
(and create links to these), embed annotations and Flickr photos, and
form your own "media groups" to organize your map selections which users
can return to later.

The tools, though complex sounding, are quite easy to use. While I
only tried a few, use of these tools does require high bandwidth
Internet speed, and so may be a few years before it is easily accessible
to just anyone. In any case, it is quite a precocious set of tools that
work very fluidly, and represent a highly sophisticated user interface
that indeed is an indication of where the Internet is bound to take us
in the future.

For all of its complexity, first time users will be delighted at the
ease of entry (if they have high enough bandwidth). There are simple
instructions and the site is organized with minimalism in mind. Also,
the front page highlights new additions and special features. For this
reason, while the search interface is very usable and browsing is easy,
the front page always has something attractive in itself to browse to
directly, for those who don't know exactly what to look at.