Wisconsin Geospatial News

Lewis & Clark maps popping up

Two hundred years ago President Thomas Jefferson was orchestrating the organization of the expedition to explore the lands that had just been added to the public domain through the Louisiana Purchase. Maps were a critical part of the planning, and information gathered during the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806) led to many additional maps.

Now a series of events and products commemorating the expedition are beginning to appear as we start through the several years of its bicentennial. In terms of maps, most of what we are seeing is historical maps. Traditional museum exhibitions are one mode, but web presentations are popping up, too.

Exhibits and posters

The Library of Congress is staging an exhibit in Washington, D.C. through this November that includes a number of maps from the period. A web site provides remote access to this exhibit, including some large views of the maps:

In a related move, the U.S. Geological Survey has published a large poster showing a map of the western half of the country drawn shortly after the expedition concluded, as well as a modern map of the same area. The juxtaposition of the two representations reveals the amazingly high quality of information collected during the expedition, and also illustrates the differences in cartographic technique available now as compared to 200 years ago. For a preview of the poster, which can be purchased for $15, visit rockyweb.cr.usgs.gov/historicmaps/historicmapsfromlca.html.

Interactive maps delivery navigation

A completely different experience is offered by a web site that uses web animation with maps as an device for learning about the expedition. This site also includes images of some historical maps. Take a look at www.lewis-clark.org/.