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Map Curators Group > Workshop 2010 > Matt Knutzen Paper

Matt Knutzen
Geospatial Librarian, The New York Public Library Map Division
Maps@NYPL: New collaborative methods in (re)presenting historical geography

The geospatial turn in the humanities represents a facet, perhaps of a larger, parallel societal shift in consciousness; an enhanced awareness and appreciation of geography, of place, and of the local. In a positive feedback loop with this shift is the rise and near ubiquity of web map applications and increasingly, web based analytical mapping tools, once the exclusive domain of GIS professionals.
These shifts radically altered map libraries, where many traditional functions have been superseded; from way-finding to locating places, and now to answering ever more complex questions, such as “how do I get to here from there using local roads, on a bicycle?” Meanwhile, map libraries push heavily used historical map collections to the web for consumption by a wider, virtual public. Most basic geographic information-seeking habits and a sampling of digital map images are now satisfied through the web. This might appear as the death knell of the map library, were it not for the emergence of the following: Participatory GIS; the mashup/remix cultural zeitgeist and its enabling web infrastructure; and extensive open source software libraries designed to deliver, describe, rework, add value to, and present maps on the web.

Given this context, the New York Public Library, in partnership with EntropyFreeLLC, and now Stanford University and Stamen Design, developed http://maps.nypl.org, an open source, web based, georectification and vector data tracing toolkit. This talk will demonstrate the use of the toolkit, outline how it is currently being used to address the research needs of today’s patron, describe possible future use cases both within and outside of map libraries, and finally look to future directions of consortial software development.

50th Anniversary Book
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