ICC Programming

Atlas Connections

4609.1 - Paper to Digital: Historical Atlases in the Hybrid Age

Tuesday, July 4
2:50 PM - 3:10 PM
Location: Harding

Atlases have traditionally been printed and published in bound volumes, but recent advances in mapping technologies have resulted in many of the newer atlases being released in digital form, often on the web. Nonetheless, more atlases are available in paper form than not, and these are often difficult for large numbers of readers to find, access, and use. As reference materials, atlases are not often available through Interlibrary Loan. Some atlases had limited print runs, some may no longer be maintained in a map collection due to physical storage limitations, and some have been lost or damaged over the course of time. Due to their physical size and weight, some historical atlases must be stored separately from single-sheet maps or smaller-sized atlases, and these oversize volumes may not even be cataloged with the general collection. As a result, this rich source of information often sits untapped in library map drawers, inaccessible stores of map publishers, underutilized archives in museums, and even unknown private collections.
The maps in these atlases could prove invaluable in providing unique views into the past. Historical atlases are of potential interest to a broad range of users, including scientists, researchers, historians, and general map users who are looking for a snapshot of the atlas area or subject at a specific time or as part of a trend over time. Atlases often offer a more in-depth explanation of the subjects mapped by including supporting text, graphs, illustrations, photographs, and tables. As a compendium of maps, atlases provide a comprehensive view of the mapped area through concise but detailed information about a variety of subjects. While many scientific agencies, map publishers, and libraries recognize the need for access to historical atlases, they may not have the resources or knowledge to provide this access.
If these atlases can and should be preserved, what is the process for doing that—what is involved in creating an atlas today? Some believe that we are transitioning from the Information Age to the Hybrid Age in a technological revolution distinguished by ubiquitous computing, intelligent machines, social technologies, integrated scientific fields, and rapidly-adaptive development strategies. It is into this new age that we introduce a new kind of atlas—one that is itself ubiquitous, intelligent, social, and integrative. Web services provide easy access to the atlas content through ubiquitous computing on a wide range of devices—smart phones, tablets, laptops, and more—trillions of devices that are connected via the Internet. The user interface seamlessly integrates the maps and supporting content. The user experience supports intelligent exploration through contextual understanding, intuitive findability, and desirable comparison. Social media links provide useful opportunities to communicate and collaborate with others. Commenting, bookmarking, and note taking provide valuable capabilities for increased usability.
To demonstrate this new approach to atlas mapping, we use a case study based on a historical atlas of a strategic assessment of the coastal and ocean zones of three arctic seas. The original atlas had approximately 200 pages with more than 110 chapters that included large-format maps, text, and graphics assembled in a hardcover binder approximately two feet high by three feet wide. The atlas pages were scanned, then the maps were georeferenced, the text was converted to digital format, and the graphics were converted to images. All of these atlas elements were reassembled in a web app that disseminates the atlas content with credibility, added value, appreciable usability, and creative utility. The resulting, fully-citable set of digital maps and web services brings this important historical document to life, preserving the past and providing knowledge for current and future generations of users.

Greg Allord


Gregory J. Allord, retired. was a Cartographer the U. S. Geological Survey from 1969 – 2013. His cartographic projects supported water science programs nationwide, he served as the USGS Publishing Program Manager, and his last major project was the scanning and creation of georeferenced files for approximately 180,000 historical topographic maps. He continues to investigate methods and processes for bringing historical maps and atlases from paper to digital maps. He and his wife live in Madison, WI along with their children and grandchildren. They enjoy the benefits of their native Wisconsin, especially bike trails and canoeing.


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Aileen Buckley

Research Cartographer
Esri, Inc.

Dr. Aileen Buckley has been a research cartographer with Esri since 2003 and a professional cartographer for almost 30 years. Her PhD is from Oregon State University, she was on the faculty at University of Oregon, and she is an adjunct professor at University of Redlands. Dr. Buckley has published and lectured widely on cartography and GIS. She is an author of the Atlas of Oregon and latest three editions of Map Use: Reading, Analysis, Interpretation. Her research interests include maps for the web, for temporal data, and for statistical data. She is a past president of the CaGIS, and she is currently chair of the U.S. National Committee to ICA and a U.S. Delegate to the ICA. Additionally, she is a Co-Chair of the Local Organizing Committee for the 2017 International Cartographic Conference.


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Bengt Rystedt

International Map Year

ICA President 1999-2003.Vice President of ICA 1995-1999. Charperson of the Working Group for International Map Year 2011- 2019. Chairperson of the Atlas Commission 1989- 1995. Technical Doctor of Geographic Information Technology at Lund University, Sweden in 1973. Employed at the National Land Survey of Sweden in 1973 for working with development of cartography and GIS. Adjunct professor in GIS at Lund University, Sweden and Uppsala University, Sweden 1996- 2004. Retired as Head of Science from National Land Survey of Sweden in 2005 and as Head of Technical Department of University College of Gävle, Sweden in 2004. Consultany work in Land Administration in Zambia, Republic of South Africa and Syria from 1983 - 2006 and in census cartography in South Korea in 1986.


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4609.1 - Paper to Digital: Historical Atlases in the Hybrid Age

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