EVOLUTIONARY HISTORICAL CARTOGRAPHY
Afriterra Foundation (Boston, Massachusetts) holds the largest collection of rare maps of Africa in the United States. The maps span the period from 1482 with Berligheri’s map of northeast Africa to maps of the twentieth century, with most maps falling in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.
Afriterra has been involved during the last year with the digitization of the first 1,000 rare maps in its Africa collection, the development of a new online catalogue, the development of increased functionalities for users over the internet and the establishment of new partnerships that promote the use of historical cartography in innovative situations. This abstract discusses Afriterra approach to historical cartography that combines a focus on multimedia documentation, open source support and cartographic accessibility as tools for generating a new genre of historical analysis among its users that we define “evolutionary historical cartography.”
While continuing in its core activities, that is the transferring of its historical map collection and metadata into electronic format in partnership with Suffolk University and the development and testing of its online database of cartographic maps, Afriterra, http://www.afriterra.org ,has embarked in a new partnerships with One Laptop per Child (OLPC), http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Afriterra, the maker of the $100 laptop, to bring historical cartographic knowledge of Africa to young people in Africa and around the world and for the sharing of these experiences over the web.
Afriterra has agreed to make available on the $100 laptop a cache of historical digital maps of Africa, with specific requirements in terms of formats, display, context and content. Through OLPC, Afriterra is preparing to be part of a social experiment where young people in Africa will view their past historical heritage through the maps and will contribute the oral and local history of the area, by adding layers to the cartography of the Age of Exploration by European civilization.
The unique dimension of this effort relies on the fact that the majority of the rare maps in the Afriterra collection represent a colonial or “outside” view of the African continent, its discoveries, its culture, and its people. For the first time, local people will have an opportunity to add their individual histories and their contemporary reflections to the cartographic digital record at project level, within their school curriculum. This material, collected at local level will eventually be made available to the virtual community, by sharing experiences and digital material via internet. This process will provide a prime opportunity to evolve historical cartography into a modern multimedia recollection of places, events and people. This new aspect of the discipline, that we call evolutionary historical cartography, will contribute greatly to a dialog about our common heritage and our common future.