Cartographic Symbologies: The Art and Design of Expression in Historic Maps

August 18, 2020


A wrench was thrown into the gears of our maps digitization and GIS teams on March 16, 2020 when the shelter-in-place order was announced, and we entered the period of great uncertainty. Without access to the physical maps and digitization lab, our intense commitment to digitizing any map out of copyright was brought to a standstill, and our focus shifted to optimizing the remote experience for working, teaching, and learning.                                                  

With a seemingly endless stream of maps to be carefully digitized by a limited staff, we experience love at first sight day in and day out only to never have enough time to really bask in those feelings. But with routine standing still, we suddenly found ourselves with time. Time to lose ourselves in the details of the maps we had been so diligently digitizing for years. Time to figure out how we could share our privilege with the world in a way that spoke to our interests.

Spotlight Exhibit

Browse Categories

A Spotlight exhibit was the perfect way for us to gather hundreds of our favorite maps and highlight them based on a large set of granular categories ranging from architecture to footprints to gardens to meandering rivers to monsters to typography get the idea. 

Curated Features 

Each individual that helped build this exhibit also created curated feature pages in which they highlighted themes of interest to them found within the maps:

Cartographic Extractions

Historic maps have long been inspiration for creators across many artistic disciplines, and we wanted to contribute to the continuation of this tradition in some way. One of our curated features is a lookbook of extractions from many of the maps highlighted in the exhibit freely available in a variety of file formats for download. 


Please visit our Acknowledgements page for the full mushy experience, but we would like to especially thank Kim Durante for being the brains behind making our Cartographics Extractions collection freely available to the public.