Michael Taylor, LSU Libraries’ Assistant Curator of Books, recently attended a course on the history of maps and cartography at California Rare Book School. The week-long seminar covered topics such as map production, the role of maps as cultural and social objects, how maps are used in teaching and research, conservation and digitization issues, and cartographic reference sources.
Based at the Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley, the class also included several field trips to other libraries, including the East Asian Library at UC Berkeley and the Branner Earth Sciences Library at Stanford University, where students viewed the library’s recently discovered collection of Japanese invasion maps from World War II. Guest presenters from the California Maritime Academy taught students how to read nautical charts, while another presenter shared his knowledge of celestial and star charts.
The final day of the course was devoted to Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping. Using Google Earth, students learned how to overlay historical maps onto modern satellite images to show changes over time. They were also taught how to pin archival materials, such as photographs, to a digital map and create a guided audio tour.
“The course was an eye-opening experience,” Taylor said. “I am looking forward to applying what I learned in California to our historical map collections here at LSU. In addition to maps of Louisiana, Special Collections has all kinds of maps from around the world dating back to the sixteenth century.” Many of these were on display in a 2009 exhibition curated by Taylor, titled Mariners, Meridians and Monsters: Exploring the History of Maps in Fact and Fiction.
Taylor was able to attend the course thanks to a Laura Bush 21st-Century Librarian Scholarship, awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as a Teaching Enhancement Fund Grant from the LSU Campus Federal Credit Union. Faculty and students interested in learning more about the LSU Libraries’ historical map collections or in integrating maps into their teaching and research may contact Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or (225) 578-6547.