In 1932, when Charles O. Paullin published his monumental Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, reviewers were overwhelmed by the comprehensiveness and novelty of its nearly 700 maps.
Still, the atlas, by its creator’s own admission, was missing one thing: motion.
Historians and Internet idlers alike have long since become used to animated maps that cover topics ranging from a four-minute recap of the Civil War to the global distribution of tweets about Beyoncé’s new album. Now, a souped-up online version of Paullins has been released by the University of Richmonds Digital Scholarship Lab.
Paullins maps show ordinary people making a living, moving across the landscape, worshipping at churches, voting in elections, said Robert K. Nelson, the director of the Digital Scholarship Lab. The new digital enhancements allow users to pull up fine-grained data behind many maps and watch animated shows depicting the march for women’s suffrage or other social reforms.
In the 19th century, maps became a new kind of tool not just a way-finding device, a map of what we know, but something that opened up new questions, said Susan Schulten, a historian at the University of Denver.
For instance, one map shows geographical shifts in the nation’s population. The animated version on the digital site shows the center for African-Americans drifting south and west after the Civil War, before abruptly moving northeast in 1920 the beginnings of the Great Migration, Mr. Nelson said. Another series of maps, still regularly reproduced in textbooks and on blogs, shows how long it would have taken a traveler to reach any point in the United States from New York City in 1800, 1830, 1857 and 1930. — New York Times News Service
Keywords: Paullins maps