Unfolding Stories In Maps Of The Grand Canyon
View historic maps of the Grand Canyon that tell tales of exploration of the national park.
When you open a map, you might be looking for the simplest route to get from point A to point B. But there is much more beyond the lines and landmarks. For a geographer or cartographer, a map unfolds a story. They are intricate tapestries that can depict economical, political, and even cultural patterns of a region.
“You can get lost in looking at patterns and shapes—they’re just captivating,” says Matthew Toro, director of Maps, Imagery, and Geospatial Services at Arizona State University’s library. “All of these maps are really just layers of data packaged onto paper, and of course paper isn’t the only medium that maps can be produced. Increasingly maps are digital and born digital.”
At the Map and Geospatial Hub, Toro studies all kinds of maps—from web-based interactives to physical charts—to understand social and environmental issues, such as trends in population demographics of urban areas, sea level rise, and the history of exploration. He and his team at ASU are currently digitizing and cataloging hundreds of maps of the Grand Canyon in celebration of the national park’s centennial.
“When you start to appreciate what goes into making maps, there’s an entire scientific intellectual lineage of admirable explorers who risk their lives just to collect raw data about where things are,” he says.
Take an up-close look of these historic maps of the Grand Canyon and the American Southwest below. You can click on the links in the captions in any of the maps to view them in high resolution.
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Lauren J. Young was Science Friday’s digital producer. When she’s not shelving books as a library assistant, she’s adding to her impressive Pez dispenser collection.