ASSOCIATES (vol. 8 no. 3, March 2002) - associates.ucr.edu
Michael D. Brooks
St. Joseph’s University
Why is it you can never find a good world map when you need one? Those bulky atlases are nice to have around but not very convenient. They are difficult to carry or store on your home bookshelf. Pulling out one of those folding "treasure maps" is not always convenient either. However, there is a more convenient online version that fits comfortably on the screen of your monitor.
The University of Texas at Austin has a series of maps on its Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection page that are both easy to read and easy to find (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/index.html). The "Online Maps of General Interest" section piqued my interest. I ended up spending about an hour or more just exploring the political and physical world maps on the World Maps page. My personal favorite was the Physical Map of the World, August 1999. The map is in PDF format. (All the maps in PDF are identified as such.) So you will need Adobe Acrobat to view it. The map is a cyber relief map. There is so much detail (including color) that it takes time to load up. Every time you click on a part of the world, the color disappears and it has to be redrawn. If you have the patience, then this map is fun to view. Thanks to Adobe Acrobat, you can zoom in on a particular country and isolate it from the rest of the map for a more concentrated view of the country of interest. I recommend viewing this map with a fast computer and a fast connection. Actually, viewing any of the PDF files will take a little patience with slow computers and connections.
For slower PCs and connections, there is an extensive library of other types of maps. There is basically something of interest for everyone. Every area of the globe is represented--past and present. If you are a history buff, there is a large collection of maps from Africa to the United States and of the World available for your viewing pleasure. If your interest lies with maps based on political boundaries, you will find them here.
Navigating the site is simple. The map links are conveniently located to the left of each map page on the site. Interested in the Middle East? Click on the Middle East link. Want to learn something about the polar regions of the world or the oceans? Just click on the Polar/Oceans link. I clicked on the Africa link and then clicked on the alphabetical links for each country I was interested in. There are nearly sixty countries on the planet’s second largest continent. They all appear to be represented.
Represented as well is the Lone Star state itself. A quick click on the Texas link takes you to all kinds of maps of Texas. You can search through county, city, and Texas Department of Transportation maps, as well as historical maps of the state.
Overall, all of the maps I viewed were readable or could be adjusted to make reading them easy. Enlarging or reducing the images was not a problem. It looks like every contingency was considered in the creation of these pages.
So that a visitor is not confused when they visit the site, there is a Maps FAQ page. Additionally, a Map Room Guide page lists a slew of useful resources, links, and contacts. So if you need to get in touch with a real live person, the maps reference staff can be contacted with questions. Interested in contacting more than just the map staff? Click on the Ask us (Library FAQs) link at the bottom of each page. From here you can obtain information about the university’s other libraries and services.
It appears that everything on this site has been, ahem, mapped out quite nicely.