Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Literary Maps

Learn more about this map and others like it here.
The Clark Library is excited to announce a new exhibit that’s been published on the MLibrary’s online exhibit space! Lisa Lorenzo and Corinne Vieracker have spent this fall exploring the world of literary maps after some research involving a previous blog post on the resource Placing Literature. Even though the Clark Library has several literary maps from around the world, the decision was made to focus on maps of the United States for this exhibit. The first two sections of the collection include a series of printed maps of the United States as a whole or by regions like Michigan. The next two sections include maps with a focus on American authors like Ernest Hemingway and modern online literary maps. Together, all of these maps represent a variety of different authors, novels, and genres. Some include classic titles and authors like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, while others include plot titles that were popular at the time of their publication but are presently less well-known, like The Riverman by Stewart Edward White.
Literary mapmaking was particularly popular during the mid-twentieth century, especially for use in classrooms. Many of the Clark Library’s literary maps are from this era, though some date back earlier to the 1920s and 30s. Interestingly though, there has been somewhat of a resurgence of literary mapmaking using online tools and social media to create interactive literary maps. The handful that have been included in the exhibit have been put together by public libraries, newspapers, or educational institutions but also allow for submissions from the public. They all also make use of an interactive interface that allows for a dynamic interaction with the map that wouldn’t be possible with a traditional printed map.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Maps for Artists

This past Monday I had the opportunity to travel to New York for a screening of work by the OpenEndedGroup at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The group (Paul Kaiser, Marc Downie, and Shelly Eshkar) is best known for their pioneering work in 3D film, including the piece Plant, which you may have seen when it was shown at the Duderstadt Center or the DIA in 2012.

A still image from Plant

Of particular interest was the screening of "Circling Detroit," part of their "Detroit transect" project that I became involved with when they were Witt Artists in Residence here at University of Michigan's Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. The project aims to present a portrait Detroit by focusing attention on a single street. That street is Brush Street, which provides a fascinating slice of information about the city. Its length stretches from the Renaissance Center on the edge of the Detroit River, past the Tigers' and Lions' stadiums, by the bustling Medical Center, through the once grand neighborhood of Brush Park, past the site where the first Model T was manufactured, all the way out past the large, and now emptied, Ford Factory. In order to gain insight into the history of the street, the artists were interested in looking to the map collection available here at the Clark Library. It is fascinating to trace the course of Brush St. over the years, watching it extend farther and farther as Detroit grew.

Perhaps the most exciting resource came in the form of the Sanborn Insurance maps that we have in the collection. These maps were used by insurance agencies interested in the building materials of different structures. Rather than produce a new map every year with updated information (as things were demolished and constructed), the publishers distributed updates that could be pasted over the map a map-owner already had in their possession. This process creates a fascinating visualization of the layering of time and history. Brush St. stretches over many pages of the atlas, which we scanned and provided to the artists. These scans will be aligned with images of the street as it is today, as well as Google Street view, in one of the films the group produces. Looking through the maps of Detroit is certainly inspirational, and it is very cool to think how they could be used in new art.

A page from one of the Sanborn insurance maps

-( Clara McClenon)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Research Resource: Google Cultural Institute

Google has been partnering with hundreds different cultural institutions including museums and archives to digitize collections and share them more widely with the Google Cultural Institute. The site includes a wide variety of exhibits ranging from art to landmarks to images and text. The data and information combined with the digital exhibits vary from exhibit to exhibit. Some exhibits have a ton of text to describe the materials, while others use mapping to give the user context. The different exhibits in Google’s Cultural Institute appear to differ just as all other museums and exhibits.

However, a user can do more than browse the collections. A user can save different items as well as create their own gallery. These two options can allow users to save their research on a platform that is easy to access that still contains the item’s metadata and zoom capabilities. By creating a gallery, a user can save groups of items that may be similar according to their own personal research or interests.

Furthermore, users can compare items side by side. They do this simply by dragging and dropping the items they want to compare into the compare tab at the bottom of the page. This tool allows the user see both items next to each other as well as allowing the zoom function to be used on each.

Finally, users are able to share items on a variety of different social media platforms and via email, this may help with sharing material with collaborators in any given project.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Giving New Life to the Henry Vignaud Map Collection

During the summer of 2012 Erin Platte and Tim Utter began work on a project dealing with a group of antiquarian maps from the Henry Vignaud Map Collection at the Clark Library.  In 1923-4 the University of Michigan acquired the personal library of the American diplomat, Henry Vignaud, who lived in Paris during the turn of the 20th century.  Vignaud was not only a diplomat but also an avid scholar and author, who compiled an extensive collection of materials, including books, atlases, maps, and other materials, relating to early American history.

The Clark set out to closely re-examine his collection and discover the provenance.  The project focused on a particular group of Vignaud's map, specifically those which were printed in Amsterdam during the 17th century by the famous cartographic families of Hondius and Jansson.  These maps document an illustrious period in cartographic history, including the competition between the Hondius-Jansson and Blaeu families, but also the golden age of Dutch cartography.  Platte and Utter worked with approximately 200 maps from broken atlases and analyzed their physical characteristics in order to organize them into four distinct groups, based on similarities. The close examination of the maps and the subsequent research into their history led to a series of exciting discoveries for the Clark, including the discovery of a rare atlas from 1630 and approximately 40 map states which appear to be previously unknown and undocumented.  A selection of maps from the project and the results are featured in the exhibit "Rediscovering the Jansson & Hondius Atlases of Henry Vignaud."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Clark Library Exhibits Going Digital!

Have you visited the Clark in our new space and seen one of the many fascinating exhibits in the new display cases?  If you have been unable to visit or were not able to explore an exhibit as fully as you might have liked, the Clark exhibits are now going digital and are available through MLibrary! “The Geography of Colorants” (featured January 17- April 18, 2013) and “Travel Through Maps & Narratives” (featured August 17, 2012 - January 10, 2013) are now available online with the same content and text as the originals.  If you would like to see any of the maps, please contact the Clark and we will happily arrange for you to examine them.

“Travel Through Maps & Narratives” was curated by Melanie Langa and Grace Rother.  The exhibit explores the various reasons that humans have found to travel. Focusing on travel as close to home as the Great Lakes and as far away as Mecca, the exhibit gives a good overview of the many meanings of the word "travel".

“The Geography of Colorants” was curated and designed by Grace Rother and Sarah Helm. The exhibit was based on and inspired by the thesis The Geography of Significant Colorants: Antiquity to the Twentieth Century by Melissa Zagorski and maps from the Stephen S. Clark Library Map Collection. This exhibit explores the use of color in antique maps and the geographical origins of the colorants used to make them.

Please check back for additional exhibits coming soon.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Maps and Geospatial Revolution MOOC - Discussion Sections Sponsored by Clark Library

Professor Anthony Robinson from Penn State’s Geography Department is teaching the world’s first MOOC* about geospatial technology! The course is offered on Coursera, which also hosts University of Michigan courses.

* A MOOC is a massive open online course.

The class just started on Wednesday, July 17th, and is 5 weeks long. The first quiz is due this coming Tuesday, July 23rd and there is still time to sign up! Go to for more information and to sign up.

Nicole Scholtz from the Clark Library for Maps, Government Information and Spatial and Numeric Data will be hosting optional discussion sections each week on Monday from noon to 1 PM on the University of Michigan Campus in the Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery Instruction Lab (on the 1st floor).

The MOOC is intended to be an entirely online experience, and these discussion sections are optional and just an additional way to connect with the material and with fellow learners.

Discussion section dates:
Monday, July 22nd
Monday, July 29th
Monday, August 5th
Monday, August 12th
Monday, August 19th

To receive reminders about the discussion section, sign up at

You do not have to sign up or RSVP in any way - just show up on any Monday.

For more information, email Nicole at nscholtz at

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Resource: Placing Literature

A resource that just launched in June 2013, Placing literature is an online database that allows you to find and/or plot locations from your favorite stories through Google maps.  The site, which was created by author, Andrew Bardin Williams, geographer, Kathleen Colin Williams, and software engineer, Steven Young, helps readers better visualize settings, distance, and more.  If you just want to search the locations already in the database, you can do so by entering the map and zooming to a location or typing it in the search bar.  If your location is in the database a little book icon marks the place, by clicking on this icon you can get more details on that specific setting.  If your location is not in the database you can log into the website using Google and simply create the location by clicking on the spot and after an icon appears you can click again to generate a form that will ask you to fill out the book, location, setting, scene, etc.

With this site, anyone can add locations, which allows locations to be added at an extremely fast pace.  Which is seemingly fantastic, the more settings entered the better.  More information is constantly becoming available to users.  But it also leaves the possibility for false locations and errors.  Besides general mistakes like marking the wrong location, confusing books, or any other mishaps with reading or technology, there is always that jokester.  That one person that gets the bright idea to invent their own inappropriate book which just happens to have a setting in some obscure place.  But the creators seemed to recognize this and included the ability for anyone to report an error via email.  

As a reader, I immediately thought of how useful this would be when reading novels where the characters travel.  For example, this could be incredibly helpful in reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  By plotting points where the Bennet family visits and or discusses, a reader can see the distance between places like Brighton and Hertfordshire to better understand how far away Lydia is moving from her family.  This familiarizes the readers with the locations which can help with the understanding of a story.  I also enjoyed searching different locations and finding different novels set within each location.  This could easily work as a create your own literary tour based on your own personal interests.  If you’re interested in Shakespeare as well as Harry Potter, you could potentially create a tour in London that would guide you to different settings based on Shakespeare and Harry Potter.   

But keep in mind if you are not a huge fan of technology or you would rather look at maps from a specific time period, author, or novel there are always literary maps.  In the Stephen S. Clark Library we have a variety of literary maps and atlases from Steinbeck and Hemingway to the fictional lands from The Lord of the Rings.  In some ways these may be more useful in terms of narrowing your search by author or title rather than location.  But if location is what you need, then Placing Literature is a fantastic easy to use resource! 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Census Dotmap

When visiting yesterday, I was excited to find this article about a dot map that Brandon Martin-Anderson of MIT made using Python scripts and US and Canadian census data. Unlike most dot density maps, where a single dot represents many people (the New York Times has an excellent map showing the distribution of racial and ethnic groups), this census dot map gives every person in the United States and Canada their own dot. The result is a beautiful visualization that tells us a lot about North America.

The lower 48 states and Canada

In spite of technological advances, we can see that settlements in North America are still largely determined by natural land forms. Zooming in to the Alleghenies in Pennsylvania, we can see the contours of the ridges and valleys. Rivers and lakes are also well defined: in almost every case, each bank of a major river is densely settled. It is also interesting that as we travel west, the settlements increasingly trace major highway routes.

Finally, this map shows the variety of experiences lived by Americans and Canadians. As you zoom into major cities, you see how densely populated blocks are defined and separated by major roads and physical features. We also see how densely populated the Eastern Seaboard has become, and how sparsely populated the Nevada desert and Canadian arctic remain.

You can visit the map at and change the zoom level. If you zoom in far enough, maybe you can find your own dot!