While proofing for Distributed Proofreaders, I often find myself opening up a mapping application to locate rivers, towns, buildings, forts, streets, etc. that are mentioned, described, or central to a project. Sometimes it’s to figure out where they are. Sometimes it’s to try and see what’s being described.
For example, Early Western Travels, 1748-1846, Volume XXIII, describes some rock formations that the footnote identified as being in Dawson and Valley Counties, Montana. Using that information, I was able to view a photo of the rock formations. I’ve also found remote tiny towns that still exist in the American West — one even had a preserved historical district.
Florizel’s Folly (in progress at DP) led me to Brighton, England; Yellowstone’s Living Geology: Earthquakes and Mountains (also in progress) to Old Faithful.
I posted in the DP forums about this and found another proofreader who was using mapping software to locate parks that were mentioned in old bird books as locations of certain birds. This person was interested in whether the parks have the same birds.
Of course, I look at maps because I love maps. So starting with a specific reference point from a book, I can get lost for half an hour or more exploring, envisioning, and virtually visiting. Anywhere. And how exciting when I get a chance to visit in person a site I’ve visited before via mapping software; for example, the Pony Express Statue in Sacramento Old Town.
If you haven’t tried this before, do! You may find yourself addicted.
This post was contributed by WebRover, a DP volunteer.
Thanks WebRover. It’s wonderful how we can “visit” places all over the world.
I do the same thing! Thank you for writing about it. Mama Beth
What wonderful ideas! I’ve been working on Civil War texts lately, and I could certainly use the perspective that maps would give me. I also like the idea of tracking bird data over time based on these old books. We deal with such a treasure trove of information at DP, and these are good ways of using it to get up close and personal with history.
Recently I smooth-read a book about Abraham Lincoln. I learned that he was given land in Iowa for his service during the Black Hawk Wars. The author of the book went to the land office in Iowa, and transcribed the record, inserting it in his book. Using the General Land Office database at the Bureau of Land Management website, I was able to locate the land precisely. That was fun! And it ties in nicely with the original post, I think. ^_^
I often process travelogues and other books that mention a lot of place names. It would be very nice to have a tool that could parse the text, disambiguate the geographical references, and then plot the work on the map. I’ve been looking into programming such a thing, but it turns out to be a non-trivial exercise, dealing with old spellings of names, ambiguous names, etc. (Especially former English and Spanish colonies reuse names countless times.)
How many times I’ve lugged my super big and heavy The Times Concise Atlas of the World off my shelves and lost all momentum with my proof-reading in order to know where ………. it’s such an interesting digression for me.