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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 have a title, which often includes temporal information. Maps have orientation, which includes compass direction and geographic relationships within an established area. Maps have a source, or author, which often gives insight about its intended purpose and reason for creation. Maps 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 and longitude.
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.

  Table of Contents
  1. Hometown, USA: Local
2. Exploration and Discovery
3. Migration and Settlement
4. Travel and Transportation
5. Environmental History
6. Military Maps
7. Pictorial Maps
  8. Maps of Today
9. Unusual Maps
MrSID: American Memory maps are “zoomable” and can be examined in detail using Lizard Tech’s MrSID technology. The MrSID Viewer makes it possible to view and work with these maps "offline."