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Interactive historical maps of the United States

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  January 7, 2014 11:56 AM

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In an interview last November with the New Republic, Gareth Cook (former Ideas editor, current Globe columnist, and editor of the new book, "The Best American Infographics, 2013) explained that while infographics feel like a a craze, in a sense they're as old as maps, which can be thought of as the original infographics.

The idea of maps-as-infographics really comes to life in a new production out of the University of Richmond, where researchers have created a digital edition of the famed "Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States." The atlas, which was published by Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright in 1932, contained nearly 700 maps that show how the United States changed over time on a number of key dimensions like the distribution of wealth, geographic boundaries, and the locations of colleges and universities. The new digital version lets you flip easily between the maps, so you can quickly compare, for example, how the rate of travel between New York City and Florida changed between 1800 (when it took two weeks) and 1857 (when it took about two days). There's also the option to "animate" some of maps, which lets you watch, for example, as Spanish exploration routes creep into the continent between 1535 and 1706- which is surely the kind of visual display that would get high marks from infographic curators today.

You can browse the atlas here.

H/T Marginal Revolution.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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