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A Visit to the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford Libraries

A collection of sixteen thousand rare maps, globes, and atlases.
Authored by
Jim Spadaccini
Founder & Creative Director

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford Libraries during a meeting of California Map Society. Used by students and researchers, The Center's collection has over “sixteen thousand rare, artistic, and unusual maps, globes, and atlases, which include over two hundred thousand maps, the majority of which have been digitized.” Large video walls, together with an Ideum Drafting Table and our first 8K Touch Table, allow access to the digitized assets.


I first met David Rumsey and was introduced to his amazing collection of historical maps in the early 2000s when I lived in the Bay Area. Back then, his map collection was housed in his private library space, where I shot panoramic images of the collection. About eight years ago, the collection moved to Stanford Libraries. 


I’ve always been fascinated with maps. Not only has Ideum incorporated maps into many of our interactive applications, we've continued to develop strategies to best understand how to present them to the general public. Our focus at Ideum is mostly on how to present maps on large format displays. 

David has also spent decades looking at historical maps. With his company Luna Imaging, he developed the sophisticated software LUNA, which "makes it easy to organize, manage, and preserve digital assets, curate collections, and deliver content to targeted audiences or the general public." LUNA can be found at many top universities, libraries, museums, and research centers. Over the years, we at Ideum have become very familiar with this software and have learned a lot about their approach to presenting historical maps digitally. While LUNA is capable of so much more, it does a great job of presenting David’s amazing collection to visitors at the Map Center and on Rumsey's own web site at www.davidrumsey.com.

We were thrilled last year to have The David Rumsey Map Center incorporate the very first 8K touch table that we’ve produced. And as far as we know, it remains the only 8K touch table in production anywhere in the world. It is hard to think of a better way to use all the resolution then to look at detailed maps! Our 75” 8K Pro touch table has a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 pixels. It uses a responsive P-cap sensor developed by Displax with 40 touch points. Like all of our touch tables, the frame and chassis are all-aluminum and built in the USA. The large surface provides space for multiple visitors to collaborate and talk about the maps and other objects they are viewing.

A lot has changed since I first had an opportunity to see and photograph the private collection. I am grateful that I had a chance to visit The David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford Libraries and to learn more about their collection and their approach to presenting it to their visitors. If you can’t make it in person, you might want to check out some of their online collections.