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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Mapping The National Parks

[Detail] The Grand Canyon. Clarence E. Dutton, 1882.

Critical Thinking

Explorers, cartographers, government officials and others have gathered data about the land that became national parks from the time before it was designated as park land to the present day. By comparing maps of the same land area made at various dates, students can investigate how the land changed as well as how the information gathered about this land changed over time. For example, search on Maine to retrieve the maps of this state and of the Acadia National Park. Students can view the maps in chronological order, looking for the similarities and differences among the maps.

From their observations, students can also determine what technological advances may have assisted the data collectors. For example, look at different ways cartographers represented topography. In early maps, cartographers represented mountains with circles of small lines. Later, a system was standardized using topographic lines to indicate more exact elevation.

Also available in Mapping the National Parks are chronologically arranged collections of topographic quadrangle maps of Tennessee and North Carolina at a scale of 1:24,000. Students can look at these highly detailed maps of small regions of the parks and look for change over time. Note that items drawn in purple represent new developments from previous versions of the same map. To see how these quadrangles fit together, view the Topographic Quadrangle Map section of the special presentation Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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