The Primary Source Librarian

Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources

Zoom into Maps

I spent the past week writing an article about ways to teach with maps. Along the way, I discovered hundreds of rich collections and outstanding lesson plans. In fact, there are so many map-related websites that it’s nearly impossible to know what to include. And what to leave out.

Believe me, I am no expert in maps. That’s why a Library of Congress Teacher Page activity called “Zoom into Maps” was so helpful. It introduces teachers to map terminology and map analysis (forms and all). Someone at the Library of Congress has also done teachers the huge favor of selecting the most teachable and interesting maps in the American Memory collections. What a relief! I really didn’t have time to look through 4.5 million maps.

Zoom into Maps” points out what can be learned from historic maps, and I agree:

In addition to teaching geographic understanding, maps do an excellent job of illustrating change over time. They personalize history by giving evidence of familiar landmarks and of people, their beliefs, and the political policies of an era.

Zoom into Maps” is organized by topic, and the first one – Hometown USA: Local Geography – is one of my favorites because I LOVE the Panoramic Maps collection. I just wish every town in the USA had its own hand-drawn panoramic map. I guess those 19th century artists and map makers weren’t thinking ahead to teachers’ needs in the 21st century.

There’s enough map material here to enrich an entire year of U.S. History studies without even looking further. Here are all the categories:

Each category links to a “featured map” and additional context for each.

My second favorite category (after the panoramic maps) is “Unusual Maps.” Here you can find fun maps for teaching:

  • Kingdom of France, 1796 (in the form of a ship)
  • Eagle Map of the United States, 1831
  • Gerry-mander: a new species of monster, 1812

I hope you will enjoy the “Zoom into Maps” activity as much as I did. I guarantee you’ll be more comfortable in the virtual Map Room of the Library of Congress once you’ve gone through it.

Gerry-mander, a new species of monster, 1812

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