By now, a lot of people are aware of NYPL’s fantastic digital GIS tool, Mapwarper. It enables users to create overlays with any map in their digital collection. Mapwarper has made NYPL’s geographic resources available to the public in such a way that makes them more meaningful, but it’s not the only, free-of-charge, online GIS program of its kind. In my research, I’ve explored a few others that are equally user-friendly and give you slightly different abilities, allowing you to exploit a more diverse range of resources.
Something that many people don’t know is that the Beta version of NYPL’s Mapwarper is actually still available and allows you to do one thing that the official version does not: upload and georectify maps and images that are not in the NYPL digital collection.
While NYPL is a vast repository of geographic materials, there are other libraries and archives out there that house different and sometimes unique maps that a person may find more useful than what NYPL has to offer in their digital gallery. Some examples would be the Library of Congress’ Map Collection or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Historical Map and Chart Collection. These are two repositories that allow users to search for and download high resolution files of historic maps. By going to www.mapwarper.net, instead of http://maps.nypl.org/warper, you can upload and georectify these files. And if you feel like getting creative, you can georectify literally any image file you upload, regardless of whether or not it is a map. Comme ca:
Mapwarper Beta is great for manipulating and exploring those maps you are able to download. Some digital repositories however, will allow you to look at hi-res images on their site, but have included protections so that you can’t actually download them. Gallery sales and exhibition websites, like the David Rumsey Map Collection, frequently have zoom functions to get you right up close to examine map details, but only display a small portion of the hi-res image at a time. However, there is another online program called Georeferencer that enables people to use these maps without downloading/uploading the file, using only the map’s URL. Copy and paste the link to the map into the “Georeference” field on the homepage and click “Georeference.” The hi-res data that was only available in a small box on the Gallery site, is now available as an entire image on the Georeferencer site.
The process of adding reference points to maps and creating overlays with either of these programs is so simple that any attempt to explain it here would likely be more complicated than it should be and probably result in unnecessary confusion. It’s really as easy as clicking on the same location on two maps. It’s best to just play around with it and explore it yourself. By incorporating these other GIS programs into your research, you are able to bring in a much wider variety of resources that may otherwise have been left unexplored, and you can see what the Village was before it was the Village.