Thursday, September 11, 2008

What is a map and what does it really represent?

Check out the article "Internet maps 'demolish British history'". I found it interesting to think beyond the idea of a map as a way to get to a specific destination or to find out specific information. The writer of the article clearly thinks that maps give a sense of place and character. That they are cultural artifacts.

In the library world we have always had a multitude of maps and atlases with multiple, varied, and unique purposes. Street maps, cultural maps, political maps, historical maps, maps of stars, maps of commerce and farming, maps of all kinds of information. These varied maps usually come bound in atlases and are there for us when we need specific kinds of information like a map of the Battle of Hastings or the locations of all of the castles in Scotland. I use them to help patrons find information. I have never really thought about how they are also cultural artifacts tied not only to a specific place but to a time.

I have always used Mapquest or Google-Maps to find a specific address, I've never thought of using them as guides or tourbooks. Cultural features can be found on other map forms. When traveling I tend to use Mapquest to find specific destinations AND a guidebook to see what else is around. I use the Internet to find interesting and unusual things to go and see on the way. On my sabbatical I used the National Park Service site to find National Parks, Monuments and Historic places.

I'm an information omnivore with a Masters in Library Science, which pretty much gives me a black belt in finding information. So what about John Q. Public. Are they masters of travel information? Should Google-Maps and Mapquest be putting more cultural information on their road maps in order to function more like a sightseeing guide? According to the article, Google-Maps does have the ability to show these
features, but how many people turn that on? I think I have more questions than answers. It is hard to ascertain peoples information seeking behavior on travel using the internet.

I have another question to add. Do the GPS guidance systems in automobiles like "Tom Tom" give cultural information or just guidance to a specific address? Since I don't own one of these I do not have the answer, nor a deep enough interest in this question to go find out...

This is a small sample of the scope of the atlas collection in the Oboler Library Reference Area:

Atlas of the breeding birds of Nevada
REF: QL684.N3 A85 2007

Atlas of the world’s languages
REF: G1046.E3 A8 2007

Idaho atlas & gazetteer
REFDESK: G1480 .I33 2007

An atlas of poverty in America
REF: HC110.P6 G543 2006

Atlas of North America
REF: G1105 .A8 2005

Atlas of the world
Atlas Stand: G1021 .G4125 2005

America discovered : a historical atlas of North American exploration
REF: G1106.S12 H3 2004
Idaho Falls Reference: G1106.S12 H3 2004

No comments: