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19th Century Maps Drawn By Children
April 1, 2012 7:08 AM   Subscribe

The David Rumsey Map Collection presents 19th-century maps, drawn by children. Relics of an approach to the teaching of geography through the copying of existing maps and atlases, many of these maps are stunning in their detail and elegance--though not always in their accuracy. Also, I'll be damned if one of the teachers mentioned didn't create something that looks an awful lot like an infographic. [Via]
posted by Rykey (22 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
That last link is fantastically intricate.
posted by arcticseal at 7:33 AM on April 1, 2012


"Bradford Scott" my ass. I know a Ralph Steadman when I see it.
posted by griphus at 8:33 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't be the only person who read The Donald Rumsfeld Map Collection.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:42 AM on April 1, 2012


Every kid should be taught about history and geography so as to be able to do this. As someone who loves history but never even saw a map until high school in the public school system, and still has trouble with world geography, I wish I'd had a teacher like this one.

Amazing stuff, and I bet these kids remember their history better for being able to connect the where with the when in ways that I never could at that age.
posted by misha at 8:49 AM on April 1, 2012


I don't mind not having the drawing skills, but I sure wish I had the ability to visualize and remember how things are laid out in the world.

Every once in a while I'm trying to plan a trip or follow a news story or whatever and a question will come up like "Which piece of Arkansas is it that borders on Tennessee" or something like that, and I just can't even begin to sort out the answer. I wonder whether copying out maps like this helps fix the details in your memory, or whether these kids would have been just as stumped as I am when they found themselves without the original map to refer back to.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:54 AM on April 1, 2012


This one meaning the teacher in the last link.
posted by misha at 8:55 AM on April 1, 2012


I can't be the only person who read The Donald Rumsfeld Map Collection.

No, that's here.
posted by Rykey at 8:56 AM on April 1, 2012


Wonderful stuff.

Though I feel like a relic now - we had to copy maps in geography (and history and Latin, IIRC) when I was at school in the 80s and 90s. It was bloody hard work, and certainly didn't help fix the geography of the UK in my memory, possibly because I cheated with tracing paper whenever possible.
posted by jack_mo at 9:03 AM on April 1, 2012


That curator sure knows how to share images on the web - so may different ways customize your browsing experience. (and also, Senator Franken draws US states.)
posted by klarck at 9:14 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every kid should be taught about history and geography so as to be able to do this.

You don't need to know history or geography in order to copy maps. You just need decent fine motor control, a lack of visual impairments, and someone to force you to do it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:19 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


we had to copy maps in geography (and history and Latin, IIRC) when I was at school in the 80s and 90s. It was bloody hard work, and certainly didn't help fix the geography of the UK in my memory, possibly because I cheated with tracing paper whenever possible.

Huh. That's interesting. Maybe it needs to be more immediate for us to fix geography in our heads. I imagine I'd be a very popular teacher indeed if I posited letting kids play videogames in class to get their geography down. But some of the best maps I've seen drawn from memory come from frustrated gamers who couldn't get past that one tough level.

Oy, Cortex! You need to update your profile page! I had to search through projects to find that link.
posted by misha at 9:23 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember in grade on having to draw detailed maps of my neighbourhood, expanding outward with each successive grade. As noted above, starting with what you know is the best way to learn. My children have had the same assignment, to me it is interesting how much more difficult it is to do in a VERY hilly town overlaid with a somewhat rigid grid versus the flattish town of my youth.
posted by saucysault at 10:22 AM on April 1, 2012


I remember in grade on having to draw detailed maps of my neighbourhood, expanding outward with each successive grade.

I grew up in the SoCal suburbs, so that would have been pretty easy.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:21 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dunno about yours, but most suburbs, especially newer ones, would be hell to try to map from memory — precisely because they avoid a nice easy-to-visualize grid in favor of these winding faux-"country" roads that can't be used for through traffic.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:05 PM on April 1, 2012


Notice that almost all of these maps were produced by girls. The 19th century saw a major transformation in the approach toward the education of girls in the U.S., and I think these maps are a remarkable example of that.

In the 18th century, girls who received a formal education were daughters of the wealthy attending finishing schools to be trained in social graces and the arts. A centerpiece of their training was the production of a needlework "sampler," which sounds like some A-B-C cross-stitch, but was really the girl's masterwork, the culmination of her training, in which she showed her mastery of technique and her knowledge of the Bible and history. But after the American Revolution, there was a transformation in the approach toward girls' education. It democratized. The belief in the necessity of education for all girls spread, and the focus of that education became practical. I think what we see in these amazing children's maps, drawn mostly by girls, is a rechanneling of the artistic focus of girls' education along these lines. Democracy, patriotism, and pragmatism melded with ideas about girls' artistry, and this is the impressive result.
posted by DrMew at 12:09 PM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you're interested in some of the themes DrMew mentions, historian Susan Schulten has an interesting article on the spatialization of early education in the US here. It's the Emma Willard pdf on the right.

Abstract: Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870) authored one of the most widely printed textbooks of United States history, and created the first historical atlas of the United States.By drawing maps, graphs, and pictures of the country’s past, Willard helped translate the fact of the country as a physical entity into the much more powerful fact of the country as a nation. [...] Willard used the spatial dimension of the American past to engage students, develop their memories, integrate history and geography, and-most importantly-to consolidate national identity. In the process, learning itself became an act of nationalism.
posted by BlooPen at 3:20 PM on April 1, 2012


These are odd and lovely, thanks for sharing...
posted by feets at 4:29 PM on April 1, 2012


I wonder whether copying out maps like this helps fix the details in your memory, or whether these kids would have been just as stumped as I am when they found themselves without the original map to refer back to.
My impression is that there was a lot more focus on geography then there is today. I remember seeing a Harvard entrance exam from the late 1800s and there were a lot of geography questions.
posted by delmoi at 8:11 PM on April 1, 2012


I helped put a bunch of Rumsey's maps into Second Life. It was the only SL thing I've done that doesn't embarrass me. Too much.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:43 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


My eight-grade social studies teacher gave a test that was: you have 45 minutes, a set of colored pencils, and a big sheet of paper. Draw a map of Europe.

Doing this from memory instead of copying an original should result in more geography learned, you would think, but the truth is I don't actually remember much about Europe. Does Austria share a border with Switzerland? Couldn't tell you.

(For that test, it was important to memorize "start by putting feature X in the center of the page", or some similar tricks to get the coarse layout of the continent, so you don't end up with a map that's badly distorted on the page. Not that it was graded severely on to-scale-ness, I don't think, but trying to work with a distorted map messed up my memory of what to put next, especially for geographic features cutting across the political ones.)
posted by away for regrooving at 2:28 AM on April 2, 2012


We had to copy maps in geography at school in the 80s in New Zealand. I remember the first few years that we did it, when we would have only been six or seven years old, the teacher had a big stamp that stamped the outline of New Zealand onto the page of your exercise book, and then you had to fill in rivers and towns. Later you had to trace the outline of the map yourself too.

I'm pretty sure that drawing maps from memory was part of tests in later years too.
posted by lollusc at 4:00 AM on April 2, 2012


We recently bought a house with a ridiculously long hall. I bought some massive, plastic maps; north America and a world map to put outside my son's room. The plastic is great, because he can use dry erase markers to write on it. So, he's got little things where his grandparents live, or where he wants to go. He's added maps to places like Lord of the rings and eragon books, as well as his fave d&d maps. Since they're just thumb tacked to the wall, it would give a decorator a heart attack, but Boy likes it.
posted by dejah420 at 7:09 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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