DiSC debuts digital map of 1928 Atlanta

Published 12-17-2012

A map of the area around Morris Brown University (now Morris Brown College) shows the campus and surrounding neighborhoods in the late 1920s.
A digital rendering of an Atlanta atlas in 1928 is accessible on the DiSC (Digital Scholarship Commons) website at the Emory Libraries.

The 1928 Atlanta City Map is part of a larger project called Digital Atlanta Maps, which will feature maps that have been digitized from Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) in order to allow viewers to explore Atlanta’s history in an engaging, interactive manner.

This project will use a geocoder to easily plot data on all 250,000 building footprints of a historical map of Atlanta. Students, faculty members, and scholars then will be able to tag the buildings with information that will make the map a more comprehensive source of information. Michael Page, geospatial librarian in the library’s Electronic Data Center (EDC), developed the geocoder, a Google Maps-like application, to explore Atlanta during that time period.

The newly released map of downtown Atlanta in 1928 is made up of 50 separate pages that were scanned, cropped and stitched together in Photoshop. If printed in full resolution, the map would measure 13 feet by 8 feet. (The individual panels used to create the map can be viewed online in the
MARBL Digital Historic Map collection.)

In keeping with DiSC’s goal to fuse technology with research, this digital format makes the material more manageable and readily accessible to the public. Emory University is the only institution known to have a cataloged copy of "Atlas of Atlanta and Vicinity, 1928" (the collection from which the individual panels of the map came), and the digitization and publication of this map allows scholars from outside of the community to easily access and utilize this resource.

The conversion of the various panels into a single DeepZoom image allows users to interact with the map in a unique way. Portions of the image can be magnified with just a few clicks, highlighting details that would not be clearly visible to the naked eye, such as manhole covers and streetcar lines.

“The 1928 map is the most comprehensive map we have of Atlanta after World War I. It captures the city at an important juncture when the effects of automobile suburbanization changed the structure of Atlanta,” says Randy Gue, co-developer of the larger “Re-Mapping Segregated Atlanta” project.

The extensive detail of the map also facilitates a variety of projects and research assignments in different departments. For instance, the map provides scholars with a unique image of life in Atlanta prior to the civil rights movement; a small number of buildings were marked at the time as segregated. “Although these surveys were done for municipal purposes, the maps also serve as a record of sociology and segregation,” says Stewart Varner, DiSC project manager.

Despite its survey date nearly 85 years ago, the atlas remains relevant beyond its immediate time period. “This map reflects the structure of the city for the next two decades, because residential and commercial construction essentially stopped during the Great Depression and World War II,” Gue says. By representing several decades, this map provides insight into a broad span of Atlanta’s history and has a wide range of contemporary applications.