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New York state of mind

The Big Apple. The heart of living the American Dream. Empire City. New York remains one of those pulsating, enigmatic cities with countless nicknames and sobriquets; a city that continues to capture the imagination of the rest of the world.

For cartography nuts constantly looking to discover the makings of the world’s greatest cities, things just got better. In July, The Brooklyn Historical Society launched a map portal on their website to offer access to nearly 1,500 digitised maps. These archival treasures chronicle over 450 years of the city, outlining how it developed over the centuries.

These flat maps cover the five boroughs; you can begin your hunt with a search engine that breaks down the city into Location, Subject, Date and Genres. There’s also a Browse by Topic section on the landing page that will tease the first-time visitor into pursuing fascinating explorations of New York’s recent developments, including bicycle routes (Leisure) and Brooklyn’s Botanic Garden (Natural Environment). One of my favourites was a city and country map of New York, Brooklyn, Williamsburgh, Jersey City and its adjacent waters (referring to a part of the Hudson River) from 1852. Why? Because at first glance it reminded me of the famous seven islands of the Bombay map that most of us are familiar with. The geography wassurprisingly similar.

While the site is easily navigable, it earned brownie points for short, informative captions and sharp digitisation that enabled for magnifying-glass-like viewing and rotational movement of each map. Of all the ways to discover and appreciate the history of a city, this is easily one of the
most exciting.

Log on to mapcollections.brooklynhistory.org

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