With 150,000 or so old print maps to his name, David Rumsey has earned his reputed place among the world's "finest private collectors." He continues to expand his personal trove as well as the digitized sub-collection he makes open to the public online — some 38,000 strong, and growing.
He's created a series of interactive maps that layer old prints onto the Google Earth and Google Maps platforms, and this summer he plans to launch a geo-referencing tool (similar to one recently introduced by the British Library) that lets users get involved in the digital mapping process themselves.
While preparing for this next expansion of his online map empire, Rumsey remains fascinated by "the power of putting these images up and letting them go," he says.
"Maps have a way of speaking to people very straightforward," he says. "You don't have to have a lot of knowledge of map history or history in general. To me they're perfect tools for teaching history to the public."