On Friday, March 6, members from the Futures Initiative team and the graduate Mapping the Futures course met with the NYPL Mapping Division and NYPL Labs for a behind-the-scenes look at some of the significant and innovative work they are doing with maps.
Matt Knutzen showed us a number of maps from the NYPL collection, beginning with an antiquarian world map, and proceeding through maps from the NYC collection, including A plan of New York island—which showed how temporality can be mapped onto a geographic plan—and fire insurance maps—which provide a very detailed view of New York City, complete with building footprints. We discussed several different uses of maps, and how maps should be treated like any other text that works to cultivate meaning.
Ben Vershbow, David Riordan and Shana Kimball of NYPL Labs discussed some of the digital work they are doing with maps, including the very exciting NYC Space/Time Directory, which aims to be “A searchable atlas of New York City’s past stitched together from the pages of old maps. (Think Google Maps, with a time slider).” They explained how they are using crowd-sourcing as a means to establish a robust digital archive that is open-source and free to use. The invaluable nature of a resource that merges maps in the collection with digital platforms can be seen in the work of Sonia Shah in her “Mapping Cholera: A Tale of Two Cities” interactive visualization.
Many thanks to the NYPL for letting us take a look at the Library’s great holdings and initiatives, and exchanging ideas with us on mapping and New York City.
All photos below by Futures Initiative Fellow Lisa Tagliaferri.