Rumsey Historical Maps in Google Earth

Just this week, Google Earth released a fascinating new Featured Content layer: sixteen historical maps from the David Rumsey Map Collection.

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Scanned at very high resolution, the maps show more detail as you zoom in closer. You can see the world as it appeared to cartographers in 1790, follow Lewis and Clark’s 1814 journey, visit the New York of 1836, time-travel to 1710’s Asia, and much more.

Of most interest to us this Geography Awareness Week is the 1787 map of Africa. Beautifully rendered and detailed, it offers a rare look into the past. Created during Africa’s period of colonization, the map (drawn by S. Boulton and printed for Robert Sayer of London) depicts “all the European Forts and Factories” as well as “all its states, kingdoms, republics, regions, islands, etc.” (Note: The map refers to the Khoi ethnic group by the name “Hottentot,” which was common to the time but is now considered derogatory by many.)

To see the maps, you’ll need the newest version of Google Earth (released November 1, 2006). You can download it free here. Open Google Earth and you’ll see “Rumsey Historical Maps” in the Featured Content layer in the lefthand column. Choose a map and double-click it to overlay it onto the 3-D globe. Zoom in for more details.

(New to Google Earth? Here’s a “Getting Started” user guide.)

Explore Africa’s past—made modern by technology—and let us know what you think.

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