Historical Research Capabilities
The study of railroad maps provides students the opportunity to consider the importance of maintaining an historic record and to research the creation and use of railroad maps. Ask students about the maps and train schedules they may have used in their lives. Do they still have these items? If students use public transportation in their daily lives, ask what they do with their old maps when the routes are changed and revised maps are printed. Most students will have thrown away these maps.
With this perspective, students can discuss why the maps in this collection were saved and are presented here. For example, search on New York City to find maps of the city's train system.
Are these maps somehow "more important" then the maps we use today? Were they more important to their users than railroad maps are to those who use them today? Students are likely to arrive at the conclusion that, among other things, the number of maps produced factors into the value of each map of that type. To understand when printed materials became less precious, students can research printing techniques to see when mass production of maps became more efficient. As a continuation of this study, students can also research when in history private citizens would have needed train maps. When did people begin traveling by train? Where were they going? On vacation? Moving to a new place? Commuting to work? How do these uses relate to the maps' value?
For additional information on the history of railroad mapping techniques, students can read the special presentation History of Railroads and Maps.