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Field of Gettysburg, July 1st, 2nd & 3rd, 1863 Prepared by T. Ditterline.

[Detail] Field of Gettysburg, July 1st, 2nd & 3rd, 1863

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Recording History Through Maps

The maps of this collection provide a record of the history of the Civil War primarily through visual data, not text. Students can study these maps and then create their own to develop their skills of conveying information about past events visually. It might help them to think of their audience as someone who does not speak English but must use the map to learn about the Civil War.

Have students begin by determining how the cartographers depicted information without text. Then, students can browse the collection by the Subject Index to see what information was included in a map's legend. What title appears on the maps? Is there a descriptive paragraph that provides background information for what appears in the map? Does the user gain an accurate understanding of the actual events depicted on the map?

Students can then research an event in history for which they will create a map. They might choose a Civil War battle, a battle from another war, a recent news event, or even something in their personal lives.

  • What key information must the map include to accurately portray the event?
  • Using only the map title, legend, and labels, what information can the student convey?
  • Is the map an accurate portrayal of the event? How might people be confused by the map?
  • Is a short paragraph needed to explain what cannot be portrayed on the map?