subway map freeIf you know where you came from, it is a whole lot easier then to know just where you are going. This is why the study of history is extremely important, and for those of you who love the Big Apple and wanted to check out what New York City’s maps looked like prior to having the wonders of skyscrapers taking over the landscape, the New York Public Library has just the panacea for you. Basically, the New York Public Library has published over 20,000 of its historical maps under a Creative Commons public domain license.

With this move, it means that the masses are able to download (for free), manipulate and publish cartography that were created between 1660 and 1922, where most of these happen to explore New York City’s neighborhoods in great detail. One will be able to check out the thousands of maps that will cover the mid-Atlantic US and the Austro-Hungarian empire, all in high resolution glory.

This entire effort took around 15 years’ worth of scanning, where majority of it has been done via grant funded projects such as the 2001 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded American Shores: Maps of the MidAtlantic to 1850, the 2004 Institute of Museums and Library Science (IMLS) funded Building a Globally Distributed Historical Sheet Map Set and the 2010 NEH funded New York City Historical GIS. Detail such as transportation, vice, real estate development, urban renewal, industrial development and pollution, and political geography among a great many other things are now at your disposal. [Press Release]

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