The David Rumsey Map Collection was started over 30 years ago and contains more than 150,000 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, wall maps, globes, 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 about 1550 to the present.
Digitization of the collection began in 1996 and there are now over 92,000 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 to 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, and when combined with online catalogs, they can be searched in a variety of ways. The site allows public access to rare maps that have been hidden or available only to a few.
With Luna Imaging’s LUNA software, the maps are experienced in a revolutionary way. Multiple maps from different time periods can be viewed side-by-side. Viewers can also create their own collections of maps that hold particular interest by saving groups of images. Complete cataloging data accompany each image, enabling in-depth searches of the collection.
Materials created in America and that illustrate the evolution of the country’s history, culture, and population distinguish the collection. Close inspection of the maps often reveals the growth and decline of towns, mining excavations, the unfolding of the railroads, and the “discovery” of the American West by European explorers. The collection also includes European imprints containing maps of the Americas that were influential to American cartographers, as well as maps of other parts of the world distinguished by great craftsmanship, significance, and beauty.
A more detailed description of the evolution of the physical collection into the online collection can be found in “State of the Art”, an article that originally appeared in Mercator’s World Magazine.
David Rumsey has donated his entire physical map colltection to Stanford University where it is housed at the David Rumsey Map Center in the Stanford Library. The Rumsey Map Center is open to the public weekdays from 1-5pm and weekday mornings by appointment. Stanford also archives all of Rumsey’s digital map collection in the Stanford Digital Repository. Rumsey continues to make his collection available online at www.davidrumsey.com