The NYPL Lab is “an experimental unit at the Library developing ideas and tools for digital research. A collaboration among curators, designers and technologists, NYPL Labs is dedicated to rethinking what a public research library can be and do in the new information commons. We develop everything from proof-of-concept pilots to fully realized web applications and digital archives, as well as hosting a variety of staff workshops and public talks.”
Their Map Warper project is an effort that’s aligned with digital humanities objectives, and uses crow sourcing to open the libraries map archives to people through the internet. The way it works is simple. Find a map in the library digital database, and line up an historical map with a current google map. Future users will then be able to access that map if they’re interested in seeing records of that space front the past.
The active word provided by the program is “rectify”: when old maps are aligned with new maps the are considered “rectified”, since the inaccuracy and incompleteness of old maps are improved by the data on the new maps. This active terms presents an interesting foundation for public use of maps. Where new maps are accurate according to current convention, the old maps contain data that the new maps lack. To look at it another way, when the old map is juxtaposed with the new, does the authority of the new become called into question, or does the oldness of the map cause it to concede its authority through the juxtaposition? What is the library’s responsibly to engage language that empower’s both past and present maps? Is it enough that they’re spearheading this well conceived program to build a lasting public tool?
The project is new, participation and use is on the rise, and currently the focus is on the success of crowd sourcing to solve a fundamental problem of labor in the digital humanities. Watching it unfold will be very interesting.