Using Change

You know what they say about change, that it can be both good and bad, and is one of the few constants in life. The Donald W Hamer Maps Library has been experiencing a great deal of change in the last few weeks. Our maps librarian recently left us to become curator of the American Geographical Society collection in Milwaukee, one of the premiere map collections in the country, if not the world. Another of our blog contributors, Sherry, who liked to highlight cutting-edge map services, transferred to a different department. So if our postings here are a bit far and few in-between for a while, forgive us; Karen and I are both adapting to a changed workload, as well as some administrative changes.

In the world of maps, change can be a helpful tool in dating materials. There are the broad-scale changes, such as in techniques, moving from copper plate engraving to lithography, or in material type, vellum vs paper, which can give you an idea of the period in which a map was printed. But it is the small-scale changes that allow for the selection of a more narrow range of probably publication dates. For example, I recently came across a British road map which our catalog had described as being published in the 1890s. This seemed pretty unlikely to me, and by looking at information on the cover, including the publisher’s address and the price of the map, we were able to establish that the map was actually printed in 1921. If the publisher hadn’t moved a couple of times during their history and the price of their maps hadn’t changed, it may not have been possible to correct this error.

A more fun example of using change to date a map occurred a couple of weeks ago, when we asked one of our cataloging team members to catalog a globe sits on our shelves but wasn’t in our records. I always look to Africa to get a sense of the period in which an older map may have been published, and indeed, on this globe, the continent was carved up into territorial and colonial possessions of European nations, a quick clue that the globe was from before the 1950s. Steve looked to Europe itself, that hotbed of political change, and narrowed the range down to post-World War I, toward the beginning of World War II. Then he expanded his search and found a smoking gun in Asia: Thailand. Previously known in the Western world as Siam, Thailand adopted its current name in 1939. The name on this globe is displayed as “Thailand (Siam).” So the globe could not have been printed before 1939, nor after 1945.

Calculating a range of dates certainly is not as precise as having a date of publication marked on the item itself. But searching for clues, tying geography in with history, is much more fun. And without change, as challenging as it may be to deal with, we wouldn’t be able to fill in these gaps. So please hang in there with us as we undergo our changes. Hopefully, it will be useful, and we’ll all learn something along the way.

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Realtime Map Use – Scary Sandy

hurricane-sandy-path-rainScary Sandy (Hurricane) landed way too close to Halloween!  It caused more than the normal fright with no treat following….However I did find some real gems in the use of maps to help inform people regarding Sandy’s Visit.

Sandy followed the path set by the Great Pumpkin (Weather Forecasting Programs), so well that it’s amazing anyone could have doubted the forecast.  So then I started searching for Maps on Sandy’s path. I read she landed less than 50 miles off the coastline, compared to other hurricane forecasts which have been off by over 100 miles.

I researched about the storm surge, then the power outages, then travel advisories….. and the list just keep continuing as I thought of other ways to look at the Hurricane.

Google Maps has set up a great site where you can compare and isolate,details about the hurricane and the aftermath.  This is applicable today for it updated information about gas stations and power outages.

Before Sandy visited, New York and New Jersey had set up evacuation maps.  I thought this is particularly helpful for relatives of families not in the area to stay updated on the evacuation,  along with the residents.

I interrupt this blog to comment: Twitter Trends are so much more informative than I would ever have thought.  It gives up to the minute details on some interesting happenings that would not make it to the general news because they are focused on Politics today.  I just found out that around 9am there was an earthquake 3.7 magnitude in Canada.  Which I followed up with verifying info on the USGS – Earthquake map.  It’s just fascinating that I got that news less than an hour after it happened.  Technology is Amazing!

Back to the scheduled blog post about Hurricane Sandy……

So then I wondered how it compared to hurricanes of years past and found more resources.  Including the Interactive Hurricane Tracker.  It has historical data and you can compare the paths of hurricanes of the past with the current Sandy over multiple years and places.

Finally, I satisfied my curiosity at the National Hurricane Center.  It has resources to help you learn about and be prepared for a hurricane.  I did not grow up in hurricane threatened areas so this was particularly helpful, even though I did not think Central Pennsylvania would ever be threatened by a hurricane – stranger things happened.  Be Safe and Be Prepared!

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Columbus Day in the Maps Library

Today we celebrate Columbus Day in the United States, even though Columbus is thought Christopher Columbusto have discovered this region of the world on the 12th of October, 1492.  As you may suspect, we have on our shelves and in our map drawers myriad materials that relate to the voyages of Columbus.

The Maps Library has material that investigates the state of the cartography that Columbus would have used to prepare for his voyages.  One such book, The Genoese Cartographic Tradition and Christopher Columbus states, “the present volume also hopes to help shed light on Columbus’s cartographic knowledge as one aspect of the many-faceted figure of the Discoverer of the New World.”  Maps by Ptolemy, Mauro and Cresques and traditional sailors’ charts all contributed to what Columbus would call La Empresa de las Indias, the Enterprise of the Indies.

Columbian Encounter BookAnother book, Maps and The Columbian Encounter discusses the Columbus “Letter” purported to have been written on board the Nina.  On arrival in Lisbon the letter became an official announcement for the successful voyage and “a manifesto for future action.”  It carried the first news of his encounter with the New World and registered the Spanish claim to the territory.

For a more exhaustive discussion on Columbus, the Library has the Atlas of Columbus and Battista Agnese Worldmapthe Great Discoveries published by Rand McNally. This atlas “traces the progress of mapping the world during the age of the great discoveries by displaying superb reproductions of original works that tell the dramatic story.”  It has 50 maps of vibrant colors that are rich in history.

Drop by and see these enchanting books and atlases.

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How many ways can you represent a mountain?

How many ways can you represent a Mountain?  Cartographers find many unique ways to represent their subject.  As I was strolling through Tanzania & Kenya (maps) the other day, I took a brief survey of how Mt Kilimanjaro was depicted on maps in the area.

The expected contour lines including really beautiful shading to show the ridges and the ice cap.

Then I also saw drawings of the mountain with a texture of actually view the mountain and an animal.  This map shows where you are likely to see  different animals across the region.

This map seems to be a mixture of the contour lines and the visual quality of the first two examples.  This map was specifically for tourists who visit Mt Kilimanjaro.  including the vegetation likely to be scene at different altitudes.

Here is my favorite, the Mountain looking like a sun!  Not a lot of details here but, they could not forget the mountain!

Bibliography in order of Appearance

Kilimanjaro: East Africa 1:100,000, Tanzania/ Kenya, special sheet. Great Britain, Ordnance Survey. Southampton: Ordnance Survey, 1989.  Call # G8442.K5 1989.G7

Tourist Map of Kenya. Survey of Kenya. Nairobi: Survey of Kenya and Ministry of Tourism, 1994. Call # G8411.E635 1994.K4

New Map of the Kilimanjaro National Park. Tombazzi, Giovanni. Arusha, Tanzania: MACO Editions, LLS, 2007. Call # G8442.K53E635 2007.T6

Mineral map of Kenya. Geological Survey of Kenya. Nairobi: 1969. Call #G8411.H1 1969.G4

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Observing the Earth

If you’re the kind of person who likes to periodically take a step back and look at the big picture, NASA’s Earth Observatory website might be just the place for you.  The Earth Observatory is a site that seeks to share information about the climate and environment, primarily through satellite images, maps, and news stories.  Some of their current imagery focuses on the wildfires in the US west and on the massive floods washing out parts of Africa and Asia.  Most, if not all, of the images can be downloaded and are considered public domain (copyright-free) materials.  Almost all of the images are stunning in both their breadth and their detail.  This one, for example, is a radar view of the inner structure of Hurricane Isaac, mapped by bouncing electromagnetic waves off of particles in the atmosphere.


This second image shows damage done by the Mustang Complex fire in Idaho, reading infrared wavelengths through the smoke to get a clearer picture of what areas burned.


Though most of us associate NASA’s technological efforts focused on exploring space, the keen eye they turn on the earth’s surface offers a lot of “oh, wow!” moments.  To see what I mean, and begin your own explorations, check out today’s image at

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Variety of Disciplines use Maps

star 1888 projection.jpg

I have been working on a podcast to highlight all the ways that you can use maps across many different majors and interests.  Here are a few of my examples; maybe some can inspire you to see maps in a whole new perspective!

Cartographic Projection

There are many ways to view the earth….. The Star shape is from an atlas published in the 1880’s followed by a butterfly shape projection also known as the Waterman Projection which is a relatively recent projectionWaterman projection.jpgmodel from the 1990’s. It uses mathematical calculations to be the most accurate representation of the relative size, shape and position of all lands.

Human Geography 

When you are studying the relationship between people and their environment aka human geography, we have many resources that will interest you.  One atlas, the Grimm Reaper’s Road map, represents the way death came to people on the British Isle.  It shows relations between location and age and type of death.  This is only one of many atlases available.  Others cover topics such as religion, economics, and culture.

IMG_0132.JPGLand Ownership Maps
For the casual and serious genealogist, we have landownership maps.  They show the owners name and the acreage of the land owned and the place.  The maps pictured are of Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.   It can be beneficial to view a map of the place where an ancestor lived and then see the neighbors. They could be ancestors also…. These old maps have also been used to trace the history of town origins or track the changes in how a river flows.


We have wide selection of city maps from across the globe. You can compare the street layout of a current city map with historic maps of the same city.  To help you establish how the city has evolved.  Our best selection of city maps is in Pennsylvania, but we have many city maps from all over the world.

Earth & Mineral Science

geological map small.jpgLocation, Location, Location……. Is very important when you searching for minerals.  As students researching the earth sciences, you always need to know the location for the desired mineral.  We have a plethora of maps that show the soil and what is under the ground.  These maps can be found here in the maps library or in the Earth and Mineral Science Library short walk across campus.

Journalism / Communications

Everyone needs to take a speech class and those who are Communications majors; you can jazz up any presentation, or report with a nice visual. Maps are the perfect choice.  So often major news reporters use a map to illustrate their current story,  You can too.

Foreign Language Study

Many of our maps are not in English.  For the student studying a foreign language, there are maps to test your knowledge on and to learn from.  Some of the maps have the local language and a translation.  These are hidden gems in the maps drawers.


Some maps givebeautiful germany.pnga glimpse into the life and times of a specific historical event.  The added value is in the advertisements that surround the map, the paragraphs of explanation and the illustrations all add to a map’s value as a primary source of a specific time period.  For example, We have a tourist map of Germany printed in the nineteen thirty’s, highlighting all their technological, social, and mechanical accomplishments.

Political Science

How many times, as a student of Political Science, do the Professors review the location of specific crisis they are discussing?  It’s never ending…..

So you might remember that when researching your next term project.  Use our maps as cited sources that illustrate your project, or as primary sources regarding a specific political crisis.  We have atlases and maps on all manner of subjects from worldwide terrorism to color coded government types to presidential elections. 

Hope this helps you to think of the many ways you can use Maps!

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Cram’s Unrivaled Family Atlas of the World

A  book in our over-sized collection caught my eye because it was begging to be repaired.  Thumbnail image for TitlePage.jpgBoasting the title “Cram’s Unrivaled Family Atlas of the World,” this book would tempt anyone to open it.  Its author, George F. Cram, was “a civil war veteran who marched with Sherman’s army prior to his career as a map publisher (History of Cram).”  George Cram’s works are found in other areas of our library. His index in the unrivaled atlas was republished in American Place Names of Long Ago.  There are 46 titles in our online catalog associated with the George F. Cram Company.

This “unrivaled atlas” (one year of several), published in 1883, slices the world into  sections, countries, states,  and statistics.  One of its statistical tables enumerates horse, milk cow, and oxen population and value by state.

Improvements of a Century.jpg

On another page the “Improvements of a Century” can be found.

High Buildings.JPG




High Buildings of the World is a pleasing graphic of “tall” buildings.

Size and PopulationWeb.jpg

Size and Population of the states of the United States of America creates another enchanting number depiction.

If you cannot get to the Maps Library to see this atlas, you can view the individual pages at the Old Book Art Image Gallery.

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Found Treasures – “Oil Maps”

For University Libraries, summertime is the perfect time to accomplish all those little tasks that pa road map.JPGwere so postpone-able during the hectic days of the regular school year.  By midsummer, we had started moving maps out of  gorged drawers into  more commodious drawers and in a similar fashion tugged the atlases  to more accommodating shelves.  In rearranging the “stick maps” (plats and plans and projections attached to a wood or metal pole), we found a battered cardboard box labeled “oil maps” nestled behind them.

patriotic2.jpgTumbling out of the box were maps sponsored by the big oil companies of the
1930’s to 1960’s, created to encourage touring the United States in
gas-guzzling sedans. The 1946 Pennsylvania Road Map above is one example of these maps.

The highways and byways of certain time periods are not necessarily the most captivating information contained in them however.  Often the fortuitous finds are the advertisements at the map’s perimeter or the patriotic messages plastered in somewhat garish colors to the back of the map.  The story told on the the map to the left  reads, “In these days when our democratic way of life is on trial, when hard-won liberties are challenged, it is reassuring and inspiring to look at the
past.”   The oil company names changed and evolved as they were bought out through time, but Esso, Sunoco, Standard Oil, and Continental Oil
are a few of the heavy players in our library.canada.jpg

Certain idiosyncrasies were captured in these maps as well.  Look closely at the picture to your right of the Ontario and Quebec Tourguide Map and you will realize that the Canadian spelling of guide was at least
temporarily devoid of the letter “u”.  At first glance, we thought it
was a typo, but noting this spelling on multiple maps leads us to
believe that the Canadians were correct after all.  This Gulf-authored
map encourages people”to stop at the sign of the orange disc.”


On a Shell map of Ontario, we find a bit of history about Iroquois
legend.  The “false-face” mask was carved roughly into a living tree and
then removed for finishing details.  This sequence was thought to keep
the benevolent and beneficial spirit of the tree within the mask.

Who would have thought that this forgotten carton of maps would hold
lessons in history, patriotism, spelling, corporate takeovers, and

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Sharing our maps with the world

As a reader of this blog, you’re probably already aware of some of our digital outreach efforts, including posts here and on our Facebook page.  In the last few months, we’ve taken on another service to provide access to our resources: the Yahoo-based Flickr photosharing service.  Flickr is a convenient package for uploading, organizing, and displaying digital images on the internet.  For the average user, it’s a means for sharing family photos and vacation pictures.  For us, it’s an opportunity to provide easy access to selections from our map collection online.  We can’t post everything, of course.  Copyright law, file size, and the sheer size of our collection place limits on what and how much we can put up.  But we can share some of our older and more interesting maps, with some of the them looking downright dazzling on screen.  My favorites are the 1907 Scarborough Map of the World, the stylish 1895 French army maps of North Africa, and the OSS maps detailing what was known about Germany and other enemies during WWII.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, we’ve posted many hours of reading to our photostream.  Have a look, and feel free to comment on anything that catches your eye.  The images are downloadable in a variety of sizes, though the largest maps have been greatly down-sampled to fit the site’s size requirements and may look fuzzy when reconstituted.  Getting a better copy is as easy as emailing us, so don’t be shy.  We love to share, which is what Flickr is all about.

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Subway, Trains, & Mass Transit Maps

Railway Map 1908

The map is posted on flickr, and is a favorite for all the details. Names of many little towns along the railroad, advertisements which are like a snapshot in time and the unique lettering all used to convey the information needed to travel along the rail.  This looks to have been published to encourage tourism.   The advertisers include steams companies, commission agents, hotels, railway, banks, sites to see and big game to hunt; then for the visitors with a purpose, your local detective agency to find what you are looking for.

Oh ya……. in South Africa.  I can go on and on about ….. how cool it is to view a map of the Railroads in S. Africa over a hundred years ago!

Another map of the Railway shows your basic no nonsense here is the line and here are the stops. No ad’s enticing you to visit, no “must see” here, just the basics.  Yet the way the map is presented the colored lines, the exotic names of the places tempt me all the same.

It’s Paris in 1900. Oh to be there at Midnight

Valerie (Our Local Mapmaker) has recently started posting older maps in the collection to flickr. For all to share and see what is available…. And dream of what might be. For all my nostalgia, there are plenty of subway maps available online, for current routes and stops. Just a little searching will reap many rewards.

Here are a few I found:

New York Subway 

Chicago L Map

London Tube & other Mass Transit Maps

Tokyo Subway Map

My Plan …… would be to study up on these before I ever visit. Heaven knows I study our local CATA maps often enough and I live here….. Maybe I’m a little particular….. my husband would only disagree with the use of “a little”. So I’m a bit more particular.

Anyway, if you want to spend time living in the past, we have plenty of historical maps of the railroads, subways, and transit maps to gaze at and dream of a different world. Or if your planning your next excursion, We can help!

Additional Resources:

Ovenden, Mark. Transit Maps of the World: The World’s First
Collection of Every Urban Train Map on Earth. New York: Penguin Group, 2007. Call no: Maps G1046.P33O9 2007

Dow, Andrew. Telling the Passenger Where to Get Off: George Dow and the Evolution of the Railway Diagrammatic Map. Harrow: Thomson Press,
2005. Call no.: Maps GA795.D69 2005

And many more maps of subways, railroads, and mass transit are available, Just ASK!

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