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Maps: More Than Just a Tool for Navigation

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Most students think of maps as wayfinders, resources to help find their way from point “A” to point “B.” However, maps have been created for a variety of different reasons, and studying maps from the Library of Congress can show students how maps can do more than provide directions.

A mapp of Virginia discovered to ye hills, 1667

Have students look at the map from 1667 called “A mapp of Virginia discovered to ye hills” created by John Ferrar. Use the primary source analysis tool to help guide the students through a review of the map.

Students can read the descriptions on the map. Have them focus on the spelling of familiar words like “Carolana” and interpret the meaning of unfamiliar words used. Also have students think about the importance of including animals and other illustrations on the map.

Have the students study the map and determine if anything about the map is different from other maps they have seen in the past. Why do they think this map is different from others they have seen? Ask them to think about why this map was created and what users were supposed to know after reading it.

Pascaert van Nieuw Nederlandt Virginia, 1639

Students may compare this map to other maps of Virginia from the Library’s collections. You may select from the gallery shown in “More maps like this” on the bibliographic record for the 1667 map, or search the collections. Of special interest is the map by Joan Vinckeboons that documents New Netherlands and the rest of the east coast. What similarities and differences do students see? Why do they think the Ferrar and Vinckeboons maps were created?

How are maps used to provide different points of view?



Comments (3)

  1. The Ferrar map looks perfect for cutting up into sections for groups of students to analyze. The animals alone would be fun to identify. After observing the map for details, students could put the map together again. Is there some kind of tool for printing a Library of Congress map in sections? It seems to me I’ve heard of such a tool, but I’m not sure. Thanks for a fun post!

  2. Teachers in a lesson study workshop in Northampton, Massachusetts were using the Vinckeboons map just this week to compare colonists’ perspectives to Native Americans’ of the Connecticut River Valley. We noted that in 1639, the Europeans still knew little about the interior of the continent. (For example, Lake Champlain–called the Iroquois Sea/Meer Irocoista–is well East of the Connecticut River).

  3. This article excites me. Maps give such a unique perspective of history and can be used in such a variety of ways in the classroom. I think it would be great to analyze maps of the same location throughout different periods of history to gain an understanding of perspective as well as analyzing the changes in the style of map making and the change in the land. This was a great and inspiring article.

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