Vol. 17, No. 16 May 3, 2001 Issue

Historial Kansas maps will soon be online

By Joe Kleinsasser

Finding a current Kansas map is easy. Finding a Kansas map that’s more than 100 years old is much more difficult.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Kansas Library Network Board and a $5,000 gift from the special collections department of the Dr. James Mershon Endowment to University Libraries, it will be easy to see maps of Kansas from years ago.

The grant is funding a digitization project for Kansas maps in WSU’s Robert W. Baughman Map Collection. The collection contains more than 200 pre-1900 maps that depict Kansas or the area that was to become Kansas.

"This is an important project because this is one of the premier collections of historic Kansas maps in the state or in the country," says Mike Kelly, curator of WSU’s special collections. "This project will allow a person to view the actual pre-1900 maps online without having to come here and look at them."

Kelly says the maps are useful "for any kind of research that deals with changes in the state over time, particularly the very important first 40 years of statehood when the counties, towns and railroads were being developed. Almost every year the map is different."

In 1961 Baughman showcased many of his maps in the book "Kansas in Maps," published by the Kansas State Historical Society and considered to be the best published work on Kansas maps.

Kelly has directed the digitized project, but he is quick to give credit to library assistant Mary Nelson and students Josh Yearout and Jason Kruse for making the project a reality.

"It has been a team effort," says Kelly. "Jason developed the database of maps from the scanned images and has worked to develop a way to mount them on the Web.

"Josh is measuring each map and describing it in terms of what the map includes, why it is important and any historical information.

"Mary is working with Jason to do the actual merging of the information with the image for the Web presentation.

"This is a cutting-edge project in terms of the size of the map collection. We are anticipating how people will use the materials so we can present it more effectively."

The project started last summer and will be completed this June. The maps will be available through the WSU library homepage and the special collections homepage.

In fact, anyone typing "Kansas maps" or "Union Pacific Railroad maps" on an Internet search engine will find WSU’s map collection once the project is complete and the Web site is live.

Among the maps you’ll find online will be the 1556 Italian map that records the first printed information about Kansas from Coronado’s expedition, and the 1865 map of the Kansas gold fields printed in Lecompton, believed to be one of only a few known copies.

The maps are being scanned in full color, and viewers will be able to zoom in and clearly see small details.

"We’re rediscovering some literally breathtaking maps in their quality, color, size, information and historical importance," says Kelly.

"The actual maps will be maintained here and people can still use them, but we hope this will reduce the handling of these rare materials."

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