Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Studying Antique Maps of Pelham Using Online Services That Provide High Resolution Scans -- Part II

Yesterday's posting began a discussion of how to access free online resources to permit the careful study of high resolution images of historically important maps that show Pelham and surrounding areas. These techniques, of course, may be used to study historically important maps for any locale, but the focus of this Blog -- of course -- is Pelham, New York in lower Westchester County.

Yesterday we explored the high resolution map images maintained in the online American Memory Collection maintained by The Library of Congress. We also discussed how to download and use the free software known as "MrSID" offered by a company named LizardTech. The software allows users who access The Library of Congress American Memory Collection and download free "MrSID Image" files of selected maps on that site to study the maps offline, magnify them to several times their original size, export images that comprise all or parts of the maps for printing, and much, much more.

Today's posting will address how to access, study and download high resolution MrSID image files of historically important maps available on The New York Public Library Web site. Like The Library of Congress, The New York Public Library makes high resolution MrSID image files available of rare and historically significant maps, many of which show Pelham and surrounding areas.

The NYPL Digital Library includes several large collections of maps, atlases and charts. The home page for the entire Digital Library collection is found on the NYPL Digital Gallery "All Collection Guides" located at http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/explore/dgexplore.cfm?topic=all.  Although serious students of Pelham history will want to explore the entire collection, I have found one of the categories of the maps available on that page to be particularly useful. It is "American Shores: Maps of the Middle Atlantic Region to 1850" located at http://www.nypl.org/research/midatlantic/.  Another useful collection is "Charting North America:  Maps from the Lawrence H. Slaughter Collection and Others" located at http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/explore/dgexplore.cfm?topic=all&col_id=149.  Below I will use the "American Shores" collection as an example.

Use your browser (e.g., Internet Explorer) to visit the American Shores collection at http://www.nypl.org/research/midatlantic/. On that page you will see in the upper right corner a button entitled "Search Map Collection". Click on that button, which will take you to the Keyword Search page for the collection (located at http://digital.nypl.org/digital_AmShores/index.cfm). As always, it is a best practice to review the information available on that page regarding how to structure your search queries to find materials in the collection. In the search box beneath the words "Enter keyword(s) to find maps" type the phrase New York and click the button marked ">>".

You should see the first of many pages of search results that match the Keyword search query "New York". You will see so-called "thumbnail images" (i.e., small pictures) of the maps that match the Keyword search query "New York". By clicking on a thumbnail image, you will be taken to the bibliographic reference page for that map. Let's try it.

Among the many choices on the first search results page that you see after peforming a Keyword search for "New York" should be a thumbnail with a title beneath it that reads in part "sketch of the operations of His Majesty's fleet and army :". Click on the thumbnail image for that map. You will be taken to the following page: http://digital.nypl.org/digital_AmShores/CollectionDetail_AmShores.cfm?trg=2&strucID=252793&imageID=433940&word=New%20York&total=263&num=0.

Note that on the left of the screen is bibliographic information about the map which, we see, was published by Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres on January 17, 1777. You also will see that the complete title of the map is "A sketch of the operations of His Majesty's fleet and army : under the command of Vice Admiral the Rt. Hble. Lord Viscount Howe and Genl. Sr. Wm. Howe, in 1776". It is a hand-colored map and is fairly large (80 x 58 cm). I will cheat a little and tell you in advance that the Manor of Pelham and the area around Pell's Point are shown in fair detail on the map with a rough approximation of the encampment of British troops in the Pelham area.

If you click on the image of the map, you will see a larger version of the map, but this version is still so small that it is impossible to make out the necessary detail to see Pelham and surrounding areas (the larger image that one sees when one clicks on the image is located at http://digital.nypl.org/digital_AmShores/CollectionLarge_AmShores.cfm?strucID=252793&imageID=433940&word=New%20York&num=0).

Note, however, that on the bibliographic page for the map, there are several links to the right of the image. Among the links are: "Pan & Zoom (requires plug-in)", "Download free plug-in" and "tips for using plug-in". (You should read "tips for using plug-in" after you have completed this exercise. It will help you tremendously.)

What is a "plug-in"? A "plug-in" is a little piece of software that integrates with your browser (e.g., Microsoft Internet Explorer) so that you can use your browser to do things that it otherwise would not be able to do -- in this case, pan and zoom on high resolution map files created by the NYPL using the MrSID image compression technology. The "plug-in" to which the links refer is the "MrSID" software addressed in yesterday's posting on this Blog -- yes, the same software plug-in required to view and manipulate maps in The Library of Congress American Memory Collection. The free MrSID plug-in must be installed before you can study the maps in detail.

On the bibliographic page for the map you are looking at on the NYPL Web site, click on the link entitled "Download free plug-in" and download the current version of the free MrSID software selecting "Open" (not "Save") when prompted by your system. Once you have successfully downloaded the plug-in, go back to the bibliographic page for the map you are looking at on the NYPL Web site (example: http://digital.nypl.org/digital_AmShores/CollectionDetail_AmShores.cfm?trg=2&strucID=252793&imageID=433940&word=New%20York&total=263&num=0) and click on the link on the right side of the screen entitled "Pan & Zoom (requires plug-in)". You will see a small version of the map. Click on the button above the map that has a magnifying glass and then click on the part of the map you want to magnify. Keep clicking. You will see that you can magnify it so that the reference to "Pell's Point" and the few centimeters that encompass Pelham and surrounding areas on the map (which earlier you could not even see) now fill your entire computer screen, allowing you to study the map in great detail. You should explore the MrSID software by exploring "Help" (the button with a question mark on it). There is an incredible amount of functionality available and the software plug-in is extraordinarily sophisticated.

If you wish to save a copy of the high resolution MrSID image of the map so that you can use the MrSID software to analyze the map offline, place your cursor on the image of the map that you earlier magnified. Right click your mouse. (This means that instead of clicking your mouse the way you usually do by clicking the left button of the two buttons on the mouse, click the right button of the two buttons on the mouse.) Among the choices you will see should be "Save Image As . . . " Select that choice and save the file to a place on your hard drive (e.g., save it to your "My Documents" folder). The file you are saving will be the MrSID version of the map. You later will be able to open that file using the MrSID software even if you are not online.

There are a host of maps dating back to the 17th century in the New York Public Library Digital Library collection that show Pelham and surrounding areas. Using the techniques described above, anyone with a computer and Internet access can perform analyses and study rare maps in ways that scholars dreamed about only a few short years ago.

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