Up until recent times, maps were only available in paper format. Sheet after sheet painstakingly drawn and etched by the traditional cartographic processes making each tile created very labour intensive. The intricacy of these historical maps often reflected the cartographer’s unique style and could therefore almost be considered works of art, they are certainly very interesting to examine especially when compared with modern mapping.
In 2009, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) began to release their modern day topographic maps (topographic maps show surface features of the Earth) in electronic form so users could browse and download their maps. They have since complimented this by releasing around 178,000 historical maps from as far back at 1884 for the public to download and use. Their most recent digital development has been the release of their ‘topoView’, an online service which is a dynamic navigation tool, allowing the user to easily browse and download their historical maps.
If you would like to peruse some historical mapping of an area you are familiar with, you simply have to navigate to your chosen location and you can flip through decade after decade of striking maps, watching the urban landscape change over time.The link at the bottom will take you to the TopoView service.
Of course this tool is great for those interested in researching the history of an area online, but what about capturing this change over time in a way that you can appreciate offline? With this inspiring us we created our Duo Century range of maps, where we show two maps of the same area, in parallel but with a century of time between their publication dates. The result – a fantastic comparison of old and new.
We’ve created 13 different cities across the US so far with more to come. All carefully stitched and rescaled to maximise coverage and really show off the intricate detail of both maps. We think they are something quite special and sometimes the changes between the years are quite amazing! I think my favourite would have to be Boston.