05 April 2014


It's Christmas (or Samhain, or Cthulhumas, or whatever appropriate mid-winter gifting celebration fits your weltanshauung) in March for you and me and every map loving nerd you know.

Via various sources in the backchannel, I've learnt that the New York Public Library has taken the extreme generous liberty (these days, anyway) of HD-scanning and making their entire map library … that's over 20,000 pieces of cartography … absolutely free for the taking. Anyone, anywhere can create a free account and download until their DSL connection gets all shiny.

The maps are downloaded (and some can be 'rectified', though what that entails I'm not entirely clear as of yet … there's a lot of functionality there) and viewed through a website/webapp called the Map Warper. To create a free account, follow this link, then respond to the activation email, and go crazy.

Why is the NYPL doing this? They're answering a dire need in society; everyone is so concerned about protecting any opportunity to mine the commons to create wealth, there's less and less of the public domain to wander around in every day, or so it seems. Releasing this, they hope to spur inspiration and creation … they want to see this stuff disseminate into the world and spark imaginations …
It means you can have the maps, all of them if you want, for free, in high resolution. We’ve scanned them to enable their use in the broadest possible ways by the largest number of people.Though not required, if you’d like to credit the New York Public Library, please use the following text "From The Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library.” Doing so helps us track what happens when we release collections like this to the public for free under really relaxed and open terms. We believe our collections inspire all kinds of creativity, innovation and discovery, things the NYPL holds very dear.
(clicking on the pullquote above will send you to Mark Knutson's NYPL blog entry about the collection, and should give you some idea of the intent).

So, go! What are you waiting for?

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