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  February 12, 2001

Librarian Making Collection of
Rare Maps Available to All Via Web

Cartography, or the science of making maps, was once painstakingly practiced with a steady hand and pen on paper.

No longer. In the last 20 years there has been a movement toward creating maps digitally through the use of computers.

Patrick McGlamery, a librarian working at the University's Map

and Geographic Information Center (MAGIC), is taking advantage of the technology and is creating a digital collection of maps that track the topographical history of the state of Connecticut.

The collection is available at online.

"What is exciting about the digital map collection," McGlamery says, "is that anyone can access it via the Web."

And many people from all parts of the world and all walks of life are doing just that. The site has logged hits from as far away as Cyprus, Singapore and Belgium, as well as from corporate, educational and governmental institutions.

"Anyone can download these maps onto their computer, own them and manipulate them," says McGlamery. "And that's the real story here: the democratization of information."

McGlamery established the virtual collection after analyzing transaction logs kept by the center since 1992. "We noticed that users were especially interested in Connecticut maps," he says.

"There was also a need for students to have a deeper understanding of the geography of the state and how the state came to be as it is in 2001," says McGlamery. The demand among students comes from both undergraduates and graduates. UConn offers the only Ph.D. in geography at a public institution in the state.

The University of Connecticut Libraries own few copies of the original maps. The virtual collection, which currently includes 300 maps, was compiled from maps in the collections of the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, Harvard College's Map Library, Yale's Sterling Library, and the John Carter Brown Collection at Brown University. Building digital libraries provide the Connecticut user access to information that was exclusive just a decade ago.

The topographical history of the state of Connecticut is roughly represented by different collection cycles McGlamery has made for the project.

The first cycle involved collecting maps of Connecticut before 1800. One map, dating from 1677, has the names of various Native American groups written on it, specifically, the Nipmunks and the Mashantucket Pequots.

During his second collection cycle, McGlamery scanned many copies of manuscript charts of Long Island Sound circa 1832. These full-sized photographic copies of the originals were found rolled up in an unused shower stall at the Avery Point campus. They illustrate the Connecticut coastline before the development of highways or bridges.

In the fall, McGlamery embarked on his latest collection cycle, this time looking for maps from Connecticut towns from the 1850s and 1860s. Maps from this period in Connecticut's history illustrate the effect of the industrial revolution on the growth of cities. Working with the Library of Congress, the UConn library is building its collection with high quality scans of mid-nineteenth century county wall maps.

McGlamery says the concept of how land is being used today in the state of Connecticut will be the focus of the next collection cycle.

"Through maps derived from satellite imagery obtained in the 1990s it will be shown how Connecticut has grown in the past 50 years and how the post-World War II economy has sprawled across the state," he says.

To view and download maps from the collection requires special computer software. ArcExplorer is available free to students and faculty and can be downloaded by using the Help page on MAGIC. Faculty wishing to have the more advanced ArcView software installed free of charge on their departmental computers should contact Robert Cromley, a professor of geography and director of the University's Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, through the website

A pair of workshops on how to access and manipulate spatial data on the web will be offered in early March in the Electronic Classroom at Homer Babbidge Library. The workshops will be facilitated by Cromley and are open to all UConn faculty, staff and students. No registration is necessary. For more information, contact Sharon Giovenale at (860) 486-2218.

Rebecca Stygar