The Kraus Maps Database Project

In addition to my job at the Physics, Maths & Astronomy Library at UT, I’ve spent my first year of library school volunteering at the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) completing a “boutique” digitization project to make images of the Kraus Map Collection available online.  The database’s website is up and running now, so you can all see the maps and globes here.

The Kraus Maps Collection features a wide range of individual maps of Europe and America, a few atlases, and a group of manuscript letters by Abraham Ortelius, as well as celestial and terrestrial globes by Vincenzo Coronelli and a 1541 Mercator globe.  The maps are all stunningly beautiful, and every detail can be seen in the zoomable viewers.  My favourite part of the project was being taken through the HRC stacks to see some of the maps in person—the c. 1610 manuscript map of Virginia is thrilling to behold, but my personal favourite was seeing the 1472 printing of Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae with its beautiful T-shaped world map, the first printed map of the world anywhere.

My role in the project was very small: I standardized the print and digital metadata and entered all of it into the database; I made minor image edits to remove colour bars from the scanned images; and I copyedited the text of the 1969 Catalogue 124: Monumenta Cartographica from the New York antiquarian dealer Hans P. Kraus for inclusion in the database as short “notes.”

Even though I didn’t have a hand in the initial planning, ditigization, or database creation, my work on the project gave me a lot of insight into what the “tail” of a digitization project involves.  I got to see the librarian managing the project discuss databse build problems with the systems librarian and hear anecdotes about the planning, permission and staffing problems the project had encountered.  This experience has fed into my awareness of how important digitization and digital humanities projects are for special collections and rare books librarians, and will help me as I begin to think about what I want to do in these areas as I plan my master’s capstone project experience.


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