Historic Maps

by Ashley Hendricks, Digital Technician

As a digital technician at the Oklahoma History Center, one of my tasks is to help make our impressive collection of cartographic records, or maps, available to the public.  Donated and collected over many years, the Research Center is home to nearly 17,000 maps of all shapes, sizes, and conditions.  We purchased a 42-inch scanner in July 2007 with a grant generously donated by the Chickasaw Nation. One year later, we have scanned nearly 1,000 manuscripts, many of which are now available to view online through our electronic catalog. The machine is capable of scanning nearly any document with at least one side 42 inches (3.5 feet) or shorter in length, as well as some documents that are thicker than normal paper, such as maps mounted on foam board. We also must examine the physical condition of each map to ensure that the process of feeding it into the machine will not damage it.

The advantages of having such a scanner extend beyond digitizing our cartographic records. One of the most rewarding aspects of operating the scanner is to help our patrons meet their needs through digitizing an oversized document that they either own or found in our holdings. The process is generally very brief, depending upon how many scans are necessary, and ends with either a printed version of the scan or a disc with the scanned images. Maps, certificates, photographs, posters, artwork, newspapers, and unusually large documents have all been scanned over the last year.

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The process of digitizing our documents simultaneously preserves the original. Once the scanned image is posted online, we are able to minimize further handling (which accelerates aging of the document) since the information gleaned from the document is readily available in the digital image. We have organized one of our storage vaults with 26 map cases, and each drawer is assigned a specific topic. I visit the vault once or twice per month to store the originals which have gone through the process of scanning, labeling, and data entry, and are now available to view online.

Currently, most of our Chickasaw Nation-related maps are online, including town plat maps of the communities located within the borders of the Chickasaw Nation. In the near future, look for additional Indian Territory maps, special collections, oilfield maps, and photographs.

To view maps from the collection, search the Archives section of our online catalog.

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