Index Maps in EarthWorks

September 27, 2016
Screen shot of an index map of an area in Japan. It shows an underlying map with rectangles overlayed, each of which represents a more detailed map of that area.

Index maps, a kind of finding aid for navigating large sets of maps geographically, are now available interactively via EarthWorks. The Stanford University Libraries (SUL) have been publishing digitized maps online for many years, and in the past two years georeferenced maps, along with geospatial data, satellite imagery, and aerial photographs have been made more easily discoverable via EarthWorks, but index maps have posed special challenges. Thanks to cooperation between the staff of the Stanford Geospatial Center and the EarthWorks development team in Digital Library Systems and Services (DLSS), these maps are now more easily discoverable and navigable.

One of the first collections to take advantage of this new feature has been SUL’s collection of Japanese Military Maps, which are of great interest to scholars studying the geopolitical and environmental history of Asia. For more on this collection, see the National Geographic article Secret Japanese Military Maps Could Open a New Window on Asia's Past, as well as Stanford's topic guide on the collection. You can also navigate the collection via the Gaihōzu: Japanese Imperial Maps finding aid.

Inspecting and linking index maps are just one of the features developed during the most recent “community sprint” of GeoBlacklight, the free and open source software that powers EarthWorks. A community sprint is a time when developers from participating institutions spend time as a team enhancing community maintained software. By sharing development and maintenance duties across institutions in this way, the EarthWorks community reduces the cost of ownership carried by any individual institution. This model of shared development also improves quality, ensures the software works in a variety of environments, and supports the long term sustainability of software by regularly addressing needed upgrades and security vulnerabilities. The most recent GeoBlacklight release, the milestone 1.0 release, contains work by 11 contributors, from five institutions, including Stanford, Princeton, MIT, and NYU. For a full list of the enhancements made in the GeoBlacklight 1.0 release see the release notes. For more information about the GeoBlacklight software, including examples of the software at other institutions, see the project website.