If good maps tell a story, then the Geologic Atlas of the United States is America’s geographical Odyssey. This historic, multi-volume set depicts the natural features, economic resources, and cultural landmarks of our country before the growth boom of the post-WWII years. Originally published by the U.S. Geological Survey between 1894 and 1945, the 227 folio maps comprising the Geologic Atlas reveal, in rich detail, the diversity of our country’s landscapes, from the roaring rapids of Niagara to the Mother Lode district of California's mountains. Many of the features exposed, including bodies of water, undeveloped lands, mining sites, rural towns, and local cemeteries, no longer exist or have changed considerably, providing a precious view of places lost to time or nature.
Long valued for its detail, accuracy and beauty, the Geologic Atlas of the United States has attracted extensive usage from researchers, students, decision makers and the interested citizen. This jewel in the Map Collection of the Texas A&M Libraries is in danger of damage and deterioration due to its age, printing history and repeated use. Concerned that the Geologic Atlas was being loved to death, map curator and Associate Professor Kathy Weimer looked for a way to both preserve this rare resource and also sustain its continued use. Her solution? Digitally reproducing the entire Atlas – all 227 oversized folios – and republishing it via the World Wide Web. Weimer understood that the creation of high-quality digital reproductions of the folios would provide users with a digital surrogate, thus obviating the need to access -- and add more wear and tear to -- the original printed sheets. It would also enable the Libraries to apply the latest information technologies to improve access to the collection, such as adding a Yahoo!Maps interface to enable browsing by geographic location and creating Google Earth overlays to further study each location.Kathy Weimer corralled the resources and commitment from the University Libraries to complete the digitization of the entire collection, a complex project involving the digital scanning of thousands of oversized pages. She chose the Texas A&M Digital Repository to host the digitized Geologic Atlas for a number of reasons. She explains:
The secure online environment provided by the DSpace repository platform supported the long term archival needs of this valuable resource. And the map interface was a nice bonus to the collection so at a glance you can see which regions were surveyed. You can browse, zoom in and see what folios are available. It’s a different way to get access to the materials in the collection.
The launch of the online version of the Geologic Atlas of the United States has been acclaimed by librarians and their users across the country. Weimer notes:
A number of libraries were able to deselect these from their collections because they took up so much physical shelf space. Having the atlas in its entirety has been a huge boon to libraries across the country. And it has fueled countless research projects by researchers, historians, environmentalists, school students, and others who now have the ability to readily view changes over time across the American landscape.
The online Geologic Atlas of the United States can be found in the Texas A&M Digital Repository at the following permanent address: http://repository.tamu.edu/handle/1969.1/2490. Repository statistics indicate that the Atlas draws thousands of users every month from locations around the world.
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