Around 1770, a Franciscan priest captured the topography, missions and presidios north and south of the Rio Grande to reveal the presence of Christianity in portions of the region. This manuscript map, created in ink, watercolor and gold on vellum, was one of the first to show present-day South Texas and what is now the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
The map will be among 5,000 historically significant and rare maps that will be placed on the Portal to Texas History maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries in the libraries’ “Mapping the Southwest” project. The project, which is being funded by a three-year, $314,688 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, will provide online access to many of the maps in the University of Texas at Arlington’s Cartographic History Library, which is part of the Special Collections at UT Arlington’s library.
The maps that will be digitized by the UNT Libraries’ Digital Projects Unit and placed on the portal particularly emphasize the Gulf Coast and the region of the Greater Southwest — the area that includes modern-day Texas and other southwestern states annexed by the U.S. after the Mexican war of 1846-48. The oldest map that will be placed on the Portal to Texas History is a representation of a world map created by 2nd-century Greek astronomer, geographer and mathematician Claudius Ptolemy.
About 250 maps in the UT Arlington collection are already on the portal, with the rest scheduled to be online by April 2013.
Jerrell Jones, digital imaging technician for the UNT Libraries, said approximately 40 maps are being scanned and digitized each week via a camera, energy-efficient copy lights and a vacuum easel. The maps are scanned using a BetterLight scanning back system and then processed for size, detail and color accuracy.
“Once the map is positioned on the easel, we use computer software to check the focus of the camera and image accuracy. We’re able to make real-life representations by using tools like a color profile,” Jones said. “Maps that are deteriorating are definitely a challenge. We are taking care of fragile maps during the scanning process and using digital preservation to get these maps to the people who need them.”
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