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Highlights Archives

1,500 Wisconsin Maps Now Online

A color map of the Michigan and Wisconsin territories with an inset showing the St. Marie River
WHI 41281

Thanks to generous funding from the Caxambas Foundation, Wisconsin residents can now see a wide range of cartographic evidence about their past. In 2009 the Foundation made the first of several gifts to support the cataloging, preservation and digitization of the Society's maps. Over the last century and a half, the Society amassed 25,000 rare maps and atlases. As in most repositories, they were neglected by librarians and archivists. They were neither books nor manuscripts, and they required specialized handling that most staff could not provide.

Hidden Treasures Revealed

The University of Wisconsin–Madison contributed staff to catalog several hundred of them, but at the time of the first Caxambas gift thousands of maps could only be found through an ancient card catalog. Hundreds more lay in random piles, with no inventory control at all. The Caxambas gifts have enabled cataloger Susan Krueger to describe more than 4,000 maps and atlases in the campus online library catalog. These include virtually all Wisconsin sheet maps and atlases.

But there's more. The Caxambas project has also mounted digital versions of the maps on the Society's website.

No Need to Visit Madison

The online Maps and Atlases collection was launched a year ago. Following in Krueger's path, digital collection staff scan, tag and publish the maps online at the rate of about 100 per month. They just mounted the 1,500th Wisconsin map online.

Users can view an entire Renaissance map as a work of art, or zoom in tightly on a single building in a 19th-century birds-eye view. All the maps can be pasted into Powerpoint or downloaded as PDFs, and high-quality, full-color reproductions of most, suitable for framing and giving as gifts, can be purchased.

Educators find everything from simple outline maps to detailed thematic maps showing demographic and social data. Collectors browse the antiquarian maps gathered by George S. Parker (1929-2004), including some of the first maps to show America. Genealogists consult maps showing changes in county boundaries, and local historians pore over birds-eye views of dozens of Wisconsin towns and villages.

Learn More

Ranging in date from 1584 to 2010, the maps are a rich resource for teachers, students, scholars and curious laypeople. Follow the links below to peruse the collection (and thank the Caxambas Foundation for making it possible).

Some recent additions to the online collection:

:: Posted December 10, 2012

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