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David Rumsey Map Center

David Rumsey has collected thousands of atlases in there and hundreds of globes. Atlases for the blind. Gigantic collections of watercolor drawings of the Grand Canyon. Ten foot long painted maps of the seven principle rivers of Asia all flowing in to the navel of the world. Wood-block maps hand-annotated in red ink. Swiss mountain ranges, medieval Paris with every house drawn by hand, just incredible detail. The sheer volume of material and the breadth of the collection is just staggering.

All of these maps are now down at the new David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford, which opened to great fanfare last month. Wired called it “the dopest map collection on earth.” It’s a terrific space, is open to the public every weekday from 1–5, and you can explore the collection both virtually and physically. AND it has gigantic screens on the walls with interactive map applications on them designed by…us!

It’s not easy to describe the experience of interacting with a map this big. At some point the map extends past the edges of your peripheral vision and it’s easy to feel like it’s wrapping itself around your consciousness. A couple of times during the project I actually felt myself getting physically overwhelmed by the scale of what I was perceiving, especially because of the overwhelming amount of detail in some of these bad boys.

“It's been a great pleasure working with Stamen on the interactive wall-mounted maps in the David Rumsey Map Library at Stamen. They came in with a strong design point of view, yet were always very responsive to ideas that my team and I had about how to best work with these gigantic, cutting-edge screens. And their technical expertise ensured that everything went smoothly for the launch of the Library.”

—David Rumsey