“Touch History” project uses MapScholar to explore the cartographic record of Quebec City

Scholar Louis-Pascal Rousseau is developing a visual exhibit of the maps, views, and key historic places of Quebec City.  He’s become an early adopter of MapScholar and has posted a few YouTube videos (in French) describing his vision for the site and the ways in which MapScholar can be tailored to a range of different projects.  Currently in the second year of a three-year NEH Digital Implementation grant, we are working with a number of partners to display maps and geospatial images about subjects as diverse as the neighborhoods of modern Los Angeles and the early plantation society of the Danish island of St. Croix.  We welcome new strategic partnerships at this stage:  they help us stretch the capacities of MapScholar to uses we didn’t anticipate.  We’ll provide the instruction and support to teach you how to program a MapScholar site; you provide some time and effort to learn the resource and how to curate your images and data within it.


New article in the JMGL

The Journal of Map & Geography Libraries: Advances in Geospatial Information, Collections & Archives has published a new article about MapScholar.  Written by MapScholar developers S. Max Edelson and Bill Ferster, “MapScholar: A Web Tool for Publishing Interactive Cartographic Collections” describes the origins of the project and especially its relevance for the new “spatial turn” in humanities research.

Abstract: MapScholar is an open-source Web tool that encourages humanities researchers to gather, analyze, and share images of historical maps. It is designed to open access to map images, visualize maps as collections within rich geospatial contexts, and enhance traditional publishing by making it easy to produce interactive, high-resolution map displays. Despite its enormous potential, map history has always been limited by the challenges of reproducing dense images printed and drawn on fragile paper artifacts. MapScholar capitalizes on the increasing availability of digital images to foster breakthroughs in map analysis and interpretation. By enabling any scholar to create an interactive digital map collection that can be “published” to illustrate a book or article, this new digital humanities tool seeks to put maps at the center of the new spatial turn in the humanities.

Library of Congress lecture first to feature MapScholar

University of Virginia history professor S. Max Edelson presented a collection of maps of the North American Indian boundary to illustrate a lecture to the Washington Map Society on March 28, 2013.  This first public demonstration of the redesigned “MapScholar 2.0” showcased the three-dimensional navigational tools of Google Earth as well as a variety of kml overlays that highlighted map details and put them into context.  To show the collection of published and manuscript maps of the North American frontier in the 1750s, 1760s, and 1770s, Edelson programmed a series of views of the maps that he advanced, in Powerpoint fashion, with a remote control “clicker.”

Edelson lecture on Caribbean Cartography features MapScholar

The Board of Trade dictated that the new islands be represented by a “Sugar Mill . . . with Slaves at work” accompanied by the Latin motto: “hae tibi erunt artes,” or, in English “these will be your arts.” This quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid refers to Rome’s glory as a colonizing power. Other cultures created great works of art, oratory, and science, ”But you, Roman, remember to rule the peoples with power (these will be your arts).” It was an apt legend for the Board of Trade’s vision of British America. No other European power was as successful at peopling new world places, developing their economies, and commanding Atlantic trade through maritime power and commercial activity.

Prof. S. Max Edelson presented one of the Eighth Biennial Virginia Garrett Lectures on the History of Cartography on October 5, 2012, at the University of Texas at Arlington.  His talk, “Settling the Ceded Islands: Cartography and Colonization in the British West Indies, 1763-1786,” describe how Great Britain took control over its new tropical islands–Dominica, St. Vincent, Grenada, and Tobago–after the Seven Years’ War.   Click here to launch the “Settling the Ceded Islands” site.

MapScholar wins NEH Digital Humanities Implementation Grant

MapScholar project receives 3-year NEH Grant to Help Scholars Publish Digital Map Collections

(July 27, 2012) — To understand how people in the past perceived geographic space, scholars have been drawn to maps as essential primary sources. Over the last thirty years, map history has undergone a revolution in interpretation as scholars have learned to analyze cartographic images as complex representations. Thanks to the Internet and the increasing availability of digitized maps scanned by libraries and archives, it is now possible to share this knowledge and these images with a much wider reading public. Two UVa digital humanities researchers have built an innovative web tool called MapScholar to make this possible, one that has just received substantial new grant support.

To develop MapScholar, a web-based tool for publishing interactive cartographic
collections, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a three-year, $297,116 grant to S. Max Edelson, associate professor in the Corcoran Department of History, and Bill Ferster, a senior scientist at the Curry School of Education and SHANTI (Sciences, Humanities and Arts Network of Technological Initiatives).

The grant was awarded under NEH’s Digital Humanities Implementation program, which seeks to expand on projects that were previously funded by the NEH. Before building MapScholar, both of the grant’s principal investigators developed the ideas that made it possible with support from separate NEH Digital Humanities Start-up grants awarded in 2008. Edelson’s start-up grant supported the Cartography of American Colonization Database (CACD) project, which explored the problem of how best to display digital historic maps. A 2010 Digital Innovation Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies helped Edelson continue this work. Ferster and Scot French, then at
the Virginia Center for Digital History (VCDH), used their NEH start-up grant to build HistoryBrowser (now called VisualEyes) a web-based authoring tool for creating web sites that weave together images, maps, charts, video, and data into interactive visualization (See www.viseyes.org).

These separate digital humanities projects came together in 2010, when Ferster and Edelson developed a prototype to MapScholar as part of the SHANTI cohort program designed to foster collaborations between UVa professors and digital humanities experts. MapScholar will draw heavily on SHANTI’s new SHIVA initiative, which provides HTML5-based visualization tools for scholars and will be released this fall. (See www.viseyes.org/shiva).

Edelson is currently writing a book about eighteenth-century cartography that will be titled The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (Harvard University Press, forthcoming 2014). Readers will be able to explore the full digital archive of more than 300 rare maps he has assembled to describe how Great Britain understood its new world colonies in the generation before the American Revolution.

About MapScholar

MapScholar is an interactive visualization tool for historic map collections. It offers an open-source portal that gives individual scholars the independent means of gathering high-resolution images, analyzing them in rich geospatial contexts, and using them to illustrate new interpretations in the history of cartography and related humanities fields.

MapScholar enhances traditional books and articles by making it possible–at no cost to publishers–to mount stunning web displays of map collections assembled from libraries around the world. MapScholar’s key innovation is how it brings maps together-regardless of the archive in which they sit–for the purpose of generating new knowledge about human perceptions of geographic space.

MapScholar draws on the deep institutional resources for digital humanities development at the University of Virginia, particularly those at its dedicated humanities and social sciences technology units: SHANTI, IATH, and the Library’s Scholars’ Lab and Digital Media Lab. Based on a thoroughly distributed model of data generation and storage that depends on scholars as curators of their own information, this tool can be sustained at very low costs without major institutional investments in hardware, bandwidth, and dedicated software. It joins together data in industry-standard file formats with free and effective data serving sites such as Flickr and Google Docs to generate dynamic, on-the-fly visualizations.

For more information please contact:

S. Max Edelson
Bill Ferster