Exploring Mapping History

I got derailed from my train of thought by the TouchDevelop post yesterday but I’d like to share some thoughts about the Borders post.  I found the video absolutely fascinating.  I love geography and the exploration that being connected to the internet provides.

The reference in the video about our modern GPS abilities had me thinking.  Yes, we have all that advantage but certainly it’s not always been that way.  According to Google Maps, Ontario now looks like this.

Thanks, Google Maps.

Well, most of Ontario anyway.

And today.

I rolled back the clock, courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection and just for giggles, rolled back the map sands of time to 1794.  This is what humanity thought that Ontario looked like.  (Notice no highways!)

The site does give the option to embed a map and I would have liked to include the complete map linked to above but the embed wasn’t working.  I captured just a part of the map for display purposes below.  Please follow the link to see the entire map.

Thanks, David Rumsey Map Collection.

I found the map fascinating seeing how names have changed – “East Lake” or “New River” or “St. Lawrence or Iroquois River”.  What did you do?  Pick a random name?

What’s fascinating is seeing how out of proportion the Great Lakes were although they did have roughly the same shape.  I spent a great deal of time zooming in and out of the map.  The navigation tools on the site were very helpful.

Then, I had some fun with Adobe Photoshop.  I imported both maps as graphics and then played around with two things.

  • the size of the maps as they overlayed each other – I used Windsor as my central point of reference;
  • I increased the transparency on the old map so that I could see it lying on top of the Google map;

The mapmakers were close but certainly there was room for improvement.  It also was a humbling experience because this little activity in Geography (and Photoshop) allowed me to visualize how good humanity has become at mapping!

If you’re a Geography lover, make sure that you allot yourself a great deal of time to explore the Rumsey site.  Ideas just stream for use in Social Studies, Geography, History, and Civics.

Finally, a bonus for my Northwest Ontario friends.  You know who you are Sheila and others.  I took a really close look at the Google Map to see the Canada/US border as it wanders through the Lake of the Woods.  I still find that little fact so interesting.

And now, I know why!  Check out this map from the Rumsey collection.

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3 Comments

  1. Loved the map flap/addition! :) And we joke “up here” about “the other side of the map…” This gives new meaning…ha
    Thanks for doing all this investigating! I find maps fascinating. We can take them for granted still… without even thinking about the work behind them.

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