Maps help us make sense of our world.
A sampling of the Library of Congress Geography
and Map Division’s 4.5 million treasures has been digitized
and is available in Map
Collections: 1500 - 2003. This activity introduces historical
maps from the American Memory collections. A Primary Source Analysis Tool for analysis and note taking has been provided. The teacher can use the Teachers Guide to Analyzing Maps to find guiding questions and activity ideas.
Analyzing a Map: What are maps and what do
they do? What common characteristics do they have? Most maps
a title, which often includes temporal information.
Maps have orientation, which includes compass
direction and geographic relationships within an established
Maps have a source, or author, which often gives
insight about its intended purpose and reason for creation.
may have a legend explaining the symbols used
and a scale showing how distance is represented.
Many maps use grids to show lines of latitude
What can be learned from historic maps? In addition
to teaching geographic understanding, maps do an excellent job
of illustrating change over time. They personalize history by
giving evidence of familiar landmarks and of people, their beliefs,
and the political policies of an era.