From mud maps to early town planning, Australia is digitising historical charts of its beginnings.
The National Library of Australia (NLA), holding almost 1 million maps spanning more than 500 years, is scanning the map collection and placing the images on the Internet. The collection owes its breadth and depth to the diligence of late 19th- and early 20th-century map collectors, whose collections were acquired by, or bequeathed to, the library.
The growing popularity of car GPS receivers and Internet mapping is also changing the landscape of cartography and map collection. Says Dr. Martin Woods, curator of the maps at NLA, Canberra, “People are now producing a lot of maps which never find their way into a print form. They’re just a dataset on someone’s computer.”
The library is developing ways to tackle this shift to digital mapping, such as collecting datasets on DVDs. “Today’s maps are tomorrow’s history and if we don’t collect these maps there’s no guarantee they will be available for future research,” Martin says.
Maps from Australia’s early post-settlement history show land use, settlements and cultural groups that no longer exist. Agents in Jakarta and London are employed by the library to keep an eye on the global markets for rare and collectable maps with Australian significance.
Source: Australian Geographic