Map & GIS Library Launches Mapping Historic Aggieland

Marketing and Communications | October 16, 2012

Former Students and others can now revisit Aggieland as they knew it during their student years and even earlier, thanks to the efforts of faculty and staff in the Map & GIS Library. The group, which is part of the Sterling C. Evans Library and Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, has created a new digital exhibit that sheds light on campus sites and early life at Texas A&M.

Mapping Historic Aggieland” is an interactive digital collection that features historical maps and aerial photos of campus, along with historical photos of campus buildings. The earliest map in the exhibit dates from 1919 and shows the layout of cattle pastures and cropland where the Quad is now located. Even the “Bryan-College Interurban Trolley” route is prominently marked, and more than 50 smaller buildings represent faculty housing, later moved off campus.

Intrigued by the 1919 map, Kathy Weimer ‘87, associate professor, curator of maps, and coordinator of the Map & GIS Library, wondered how campus locations have changed and evolved. Using geographic information system (GIS) software, Weimer and her team converted the historic map, and a number of aerial photos from 1932 to the present, into geographically correct digital formats.

A time slider feature allows the viewer to correlate the building’s expansion, and where appropriate, its demolition. The map-based search interface reveals the growth of the campus.

Beyond the 1919 map and 1932 aerial photos, visitors to the digital collection can view other aerial photos from 1940, ‘64, ‘79, ‘83, ‘87, ‘94, 2004 and 2011. Visitors can zoom in and out of the map, click on the colored dots representing buildings, and see photos of the buildings. Military Walk and the popular campus creamery, which was razed in 1995, are among the favorite landmarks dotting the map.

“I enjoyed an occasional A&M-made ice cream at the Creamery since I lived in a southside dorm,” Weimer said. “When I saw the photo of the Creamery included in this collection, it brought back memories.”

David Carlson, dean of the Texas A&M University Libraries, noted that the use of the map background and sophisticated GIS software is a unique presentation method among library exhibits.

“There is no other library that I am aware of that has built such a fascinating interactive exhibit using historical campus maps and photos,” he said. “Our staff are quite technologically advanced and have pushed the digital boundaries to use this mapping approach to share the library collection with Aggieland, as well as Aggies around the state and worldwide.”

The project began in 2010 and is ongoing, thanks in part to the generosity of the Friends of the Sterling C. Evans Library who have contributed to the expansion of the project, as well as ongoing support from the University Libraries.