David Rumsey

President, Cartography Associates

The Past and Future of Mapping
31 minutes, 14.3mb, recorded 2005-06-29
Dabid Rumsey

The technology of mapping has changed radically with the advent of computers and the Web. Maps are no longer static items, limited to print-on-paper. Now they are dynamic displays of geospatial and temporal information, assemblies of complex layers of data and image, created by technology-enabled systems. Most significantly, the new maps are embedded into all aspects of our work and play: they are incorporated into office systems and consumer products, working behind the scenes.


Novel as these uses may seem, traditional map-making offers us crucial insights into the ways the new maps will affect our lives. When Lewis and Clark explored the American Northwest 200 years ago, their paper map of the journey was a "location-based technology" that in one glance revealed as much or more than hundreds of pages of their written journal. Their map changed forever that part of the world--politically, culturally, and economically. The same kind of impact will occur from location-based technologies: by displaying data spatially, people will become their own explorers and mappers.

Drawing on his personal collection of over 150,000 historical maps as well as his work with geographic information systems, David Rumsey shows how information of all kinds has been mapped and will be mapped in the future.

(Please note that there are a few moments of audio breakup in the early part of the presentation. This is in the original recording and not a problem with your player.)

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David Rumsey is president of Cartography Associates, a digital publishing company based in San Francisco. He is also a director of Luna Imaging, a provider of enterprise software for online image collections. He was a founding member of Yale Research Associates in the Arts, a group of artists working with electronic technologies. He subsequently became associate director of the American Society for Eastern Arts in San Francisco. Later, he entered a 20 year career in real estate development and finance during which he had a long association with the General Atlantic Holding Company of New York and served as president and director of several of its real estate subsidiaries; General Atlantic eventually became the Atlantic Trust, a Bermuda based philanthropic foundation that is one of the world's largest charities. Rumsey retired from real estate in 1995 and founded Cartography Associates, beginning a third career as a digital publisher, online library builder, and software entrepreneur.

Rumsey began building a collection of North and South American historical maps and related cartographic materials in 1980. His collection, with more than 150,000 maps, is one of the largest private map collections in the United States. In 1995, Rumsey began the task of making his collection public by building the online David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Currently the online collection has over 10,000 high resolution images of maps from his collection. The site is free to the public and is updated monthly. In 2002, Rumsey was given an Honors Award from the Special Libraries Association for making his private map collection available to the public via the Internet. In the same year, the site won a Webby Award for Technical Achievement.

Rumsey received his B.A. and M.F.A. from Yale University where he was a lecturer in art at the Yale Art School for several years. He serves on the boards of the John Carter Brown Library, the American Antiquarian Society, the Long Now Foundation, the Stanford University Library Advisory Board, and is a trustee of Yale Library Associates, and the Samuel H. Kess Foundation. Rumsey has lectured widely regarding his online library work and has contributed to several publications on cartography and the advent of GIS. ESRI Press recently published his new book, Cartographica Extraordinaire.


This presentation is one of a series from the Where 2.0 Event held in Westin St. Francis, San Francisco, June 29-30, 2005.

For Team ITC:

  • Description editor: Vinayak Hegde
  • Post-production audio engineer: Bruce Sharpe
  • Series Editor: Graham Stewart

This free podcast is from our Where Conference series.