More than anything else, your goal for this assignment is to visit the Arthur H. Robinson Map Library on the third floor of Science Hall (Room 310) and spend an hour or two exploring the resources available to you there. Few documents are richer or more powerful for doing landscape history than maps, and UW-Madison's Map Library is among the university's greatest (and least known) treasures. Jaime Martindale, the Map Librarian, has selected a number of especially intriguing and suggestive maps for doing landscape history, and has set them out at eleven stations in the library. Please visit each of the eleven stations (in no particular order) and answer the following questions about them for next week's discussion section. If at all possible, please visit the Map Library with one or more of your classmates.
In looking at these maps, it's important to remember that they are historical documents, and like all such documents, there are key questions you need to ask about them if you are to understand their many meanings and implications. Among the questions you should always ask about maps and other documents are:
Start your work for this assignment by spending some time viewing the United States and North America in Google Maps’ satellite view to get a sense of the geographical features that most readily reveal themselves to you there. The maps in this exercise will teach you to see many things that may be at least partially visible in digital representations like Google Maps, but that you may not notice. When you’re done visiting the Map Library, return to Google Maps and reflect on the ways you’re viewing it differently as a result of this exercise. How have your eyes and vision changed?
In truth, the questions on this sheet are mainly to get you thinking about what you can learn from maps like these, so please don't limit yourself to these questions. We're eager to talk in section about anything and everything that struck you about the maps as you browsed them at the library. Above all: have fun!
Here, by the way, is a full inventory of all the maps at the Map Library stations you'll be visiting for this assignment: PDF
The maps at this station all depict topography and physiographic features of the United States using a wide variety of representational techniques. Included among them is Erwin Raisz's full-sized version of the 8.5x11" map you received in lecture last week. Be sure to compare the two versions of Raisz's map to decide what each does and does not help you see that the other depicts more or less effectively. Then compare the two with the other maps at this station and make a list of different mapmaking techniques that seem to you most helpful in enabling you to understand physiographic features on a national or continental scale.
There's a digital version of the large Raisz map available here: http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~231095~5508485:United-States----Physical-Landforms. Please spend some time exploring it (as well as Google Maps at a national or continental scale) either in the Map Library or when you get home, and add to your list above the strengths and weaknesses of online digital maps compared with large paper maps like these.
This map is among the most famous in all of American western history. On it, William Clark assembled everything he had learned about western geography during the Lewis & Clark expedition of 1803-06; later, he added details after talking with other explorers about what they had seen. As a result, this was for several decades the single most detailed map of the West available anywhere in the United States. (You can view an online copy here as well: https://www.wdl.org/en/item/3057/) Please study this map and draw conclusions about the geographical details that most interested Clark and his peers when this map was being made, and speculate about why they paid so much attention to these features and not others that might interest to you today.
The maps at this station all depict the vegetation of Wisconsin, some by attempting to reconstruct what vegetation looked like at the time of the first U.S. surveys in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, others by describing vegetation at other historical moments. Compare the maps from different periods and draw some conclusions about the changing roles of plants in the Wisconsin landscape over the past two centuries.
Here's another set of vegetation and land cover maps, these on a continental scale. Ask yourself the same kinds of questions you asked at Station 3 about Wisconsin vegetation. How do your perspectives on vegetation change when you're looking at the entire continent as opposed to a single state?
Here you will find maps depicting major transportation routes in the United States from the first half of the nineteenth century to the second half of the twentieth century. During different periods, canals, railroads, and highways all came to play dominant roles moving people and goods across the landscape. The highway maps you'll find here are especially interesting because the earliest was published the year before the federal government began contributing toward the cost of building a national network of paved roads (it was published by highway lobbyists), while the two later maps trace the progress of the U.S. highways and then the Interstates. What can you conclude about the geography of canals, railroads, and highways by comparing these maps? What can you conclude about the geography of canals, railroads, and highways by comparing these maps?
As Bill said in lecture, learning to understand the rocks, soils, and other subsurface features of the Earth is among the most valuable skills for understanding landscape history. We know that most students in this class aren't trained geologists, but we've offered here a number of geological maps at varying scales (in space and time) to see what you can learn by examining them. Focusing especially on Madison and Dane County, what can you conclude about the role of geological processes in shaping local landscapes here?
These two maps offer views of "Indian Country" in the United States. What do the mapmakers mean by this? What have they chosen to emphasize in the geographical features and historical events and processes they portray here? How are these maps different from the others you're viewing in the room?
At this station you'll find a large number of maps originally created by planners seeking to describe future changes in the City of Madison. What can you learn about the world views of planners from these documents, and how have the concerns of such professionals changed over time?
Here are maps from many periods depicting the landscape in which you're now living and studying: the University of Wisconsin-Madison. What can you learn about the history of the campus by comparing these? (You may want to compare these with the aerial photos we've made available on the course website.)
Here are topographic maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey for the eastern and western halves of Madison from the early, middle, and later twentieth century. Topographic maps are on a larger scale and convey much more detailed local information than most of the other maps you've seen in this room. What do these maps tell you about the history of the city that the Madison maps at other stations either omitted or didn't depict so clearly?
This last station is a very miscellaneous collection of maps created for very particular purposes: two plat books showing landowners and property boundaries by townships; a Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlas of Madison analyzing the flammability of buildings in the city; an 1867 bird's-eye view of Madison; and a couple of thematic maps showing aspects of Wisconsin's human population. What do these maps show you that no other maps in the room choose to depict? Why do you think they were they created (several of them obviously at very considerable expense)?