Old Maps, New Ways

Here is an interesting story about a “3D virtual tour” of the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.
Boston Public Library map center adds virtual tour (Steve Annear, Boston Globe)

Since the Leventhal Map Center isn’t widely known to the general public, here are a couple of videos about it.

The “3D tour” of the map center described in the Boston Globe is an engaging application that uses Matterport to create an immersive 360 experience. It may take “first timers” a few minutes to figure out the interface, but it isn’t a big barrier.

Click the image below to see a Matterport 3D tour of the Regions and Seasons: Mapping Climate through History Exhibition at the (The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library)

The reason this particular story caught my eye was that it reminded me of David Rumsey’s Map Collection, which is a much older project that has used emerging technologies to bring historical maps to the public in new ways. In fact, you may already be familiar with David Rumsey’s maps and not even know it. That is because it is his maps that are used for the historical maps feature in Google Earth.

David Rumsey also has a website dedicated to his collection. Here is a tour of it.

The narrator of the tour mentions that there is an interface to the collection in SecondLife. Indeed, for over a decade that site has been one of the best known and well respected works in that platform. Here are two videos specifically about that work. The first video is a narrated video by David Rumsey himself and explains the background of the site, and the second video is an extended and detailed tour of the site.

It is seldom included in recent discussions of what is now being re-branded as “social VR,” but the baseline expectations and best practices for 3D user experience in “virtual worlds” have been evolving for over a decade in SecondLife, and Rumsey’s site helped set a very high bar for the state of the art. The site is incredibly sleek and professional, so it has served as a inspiring example of how real life libraries and museums can be represented in virtual spaces. Of course, the maps and the information about them is great, too 🙂 If you are a SecondLife user, be sure to check it out! You can still see the description and access the site through the SecondLife Destination Guide.
David Rumsey Maps (SecondLife Destination Guide)

It is also worth noting that a few years ago, David Rumsey’s collection moved and became the “David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford Libraries.”

I can’t help but think that it is only a matter of time before David Rumsey and the Stanford Librarians use Matterport or a similar technology to provide a photo-realistic 3D tour of the collection, too!

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