GeoCarta Has Moved

Feb 16, 2007

Librarians Discover "Treasure Trove" of Old Maps

Researchers at the John Hay Library at Brown University discovered what is described as a "treasure trove" of historic maps. The maps, some older than 400 years, range from a 1744 map drawn by Emanuel Bowen, a noted English mapmaker of his time, to a German 1936 travel map that the Nazi government issued for the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

“We knew we had some significant maps but we had never cataloged them in a way that was modern and up to date,” Sam Streit, associate university librarian for scholarly resources told the Providence Journal. The Journal reports that the university has undertaken a project to allow researchers to view the maps on the Internet.

Some of the maps will be exhibited to the public. The exhibit is scheduled at the Hay Library from March 26 to April 25. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The exhibit will be free and open to the public.

The maps vary greatly in age and subject matter. Many depict the City of Providence, a city founded in 1636. Others were prepared by the New England abolitionist movement before the Civil War. The Nazi-era maps, drawn to promote tourism at the Olympics, display colorful figures depicting “happy Aryan people”.

The 1744 Bowen map portrays Sir Francis Drake as the first man to circumnavigate the globe, while an 1840s-era map made by British cartographer Edward A. Wallis depicts the haughty disdain Britain exhibited to its former colony, the United States.

There are also maps showing routes to the California gold rush of the 1840s and the Alaskan gold rush of the 1890s, as well as an exhaustive collection of Rhode Island maps.