Session proposal: Operation Sanborn Maps


If you’re not familiar with them, Sanborn maps are old fire insurance maps that show with great detail the block-by-block history of over 13,000 US towns and cities.

I’m moving to New Orleans this summer after 20 years in San Francisco, and the first thing I did was look up our new (125 year old) place there on Sanborn maps. That required pulling a research request, whizzing through microfilm, and printing out sheets–exactly how I did it 20 years ago at SFPL. In so doing, I’ve realized just how much I’ve taken for granted the passionate historical map community in the Bay Area and all the work that has gone in to make this public domain content freely available, discoverable, and reusable.

In this session, I’d like to build on the past work of the Maptcha crew and many other people to help geolocate SF Sanborn maps and also prototype a US-wide project using Historypin to help people make Sanborn maps more discoverable in their own town or city.

It’d be great to get a few interested people of differing technical skills (no coding required easy- some coding intermediate) to work on this for a session and see how far we can get.

2 Responses to Session proposal: Operation Sanborn Maps

  1. Profile photo of Jon Voss

    The rest is technical details if the session happens:
    1. create nested collections on Historypin
    2. pull down lat/long, image link data
    3. fetch links to Rumsey collection and/or Maptcha page for good zooms (some java?)
    4. clean up bulk upload sheet (break down into different volumes)
    5. bulk upload maps
    6. (maybe–depends on licensing) rectify/warp volume level map
    7. also a maybe depending on someone with coding chops: pull in Brooklyn volumes from NYPL
    8. also maybe: look at process for doing this from Library of Congress