Digital Cartography: Connecting the Past and Present

Digital Cartography: Connecting the Past and Present

For thousands of years, maps have helped people get to their destination efficiently. But now, 21st century cartographers are using maps to connect more than just places. On Jan. 26, Robert Cheetham and Deb Boyer, who both work at geospatial software development firm Azavea, illustrated this increasing and versatile utility of maps at a talk and demonstration in Magill Library.

Deb Boyer of Azavea

Among one of their larger and more intriguing projects, clearly shows how potent a combination computer programming and traditional cartography can be. With over 100,000 archived maps and photos, the website allows you to explore Philadelphia’s rich history spatially. To accomplish this, the website maps archived photos onto their respective geographical location. For example, the website essentially allows you to take a trip up Chestnut Street in the mid-1800’s by following Chestnut on the map.

This is only one of many Azavea’s projects. In conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania, they have also helped map the Seventh Ward as surveyed by W.E.B. Dubois in his book The Philadelphia Negro, which was published in 1899. This online map digitally and spatially represents Dubois’ data in a way that helps scholars and students uncover geographic trends. More recently, Azavea has been working with the University of Richmond to visually represent the emancipation process during the Civil War. (This project should be unveiled within a few months.)

Haverford students have actually aided in many of Azavea’s projects. Michael Franklin ’12 was among one of the students who helped map Dubois’s Seventh Ward for his summer internship, and Andrew Thompson ’12 currently interns for Azavea.


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