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Maps are a wonderful visual element to use in junk journals (and collages!).
They have a lot of texture and visual interest, and they can be fun to incorporate in themed designs. For instance, a vintage map of New York City would fit well in collage focused on the roaring 1920s. Or perhaps a map of the Pacific Ocean for a beach or sailing themed journal.
Maps come in different flavors as well– not just the typical road map you might be used to.
Consider: astronomy and star maps, ocean maps, topographical maps, pictoral maps, county or state maps, fire insurance maps, local town maps, and railroad maps!
Vintage maps are also often in the public domain, meaning you’re free to use them for personal and commercial use. Huzzah!
Personally, I like using maps as background elements on my collages, sometimes overlapping them with painted layers or as part of a patchwork style background pattern. Here’s an example:
Maps from specific locations are fantastic elements to use in heritage journals or genealogy collages as well! You can see some maps I used in the example images on the how to make a heritage journal post.
Interested in finding your own vintage maps to use? Continue onward…
Where to find real vintage maps (online)
Library of Congress
The easiest place to start, especially if you’re not picky about finding location-specific maps to use.
The Library of Congress has thousands of maps available to download for FREE, including unusual ones like Sanborn fire insurance maps.
The high quality files have HUGE file sizes (250MB+ sometimes), so if you want to upload them into Canva (which has a max of 20MB per file) you’ll have to do some fiddling. I’ll be writing about how to do that ASAP, but for now, here’s some
Specific collections to check out:
- Civil War maps
- Sanborn fire insurance maps
- National Parks maps
- Panoramic maps — excellent for vintage views of cities
- Railroad maps
Public library online repositories
Most state libraries have some kind of online collection available for public use, though of course some are bigger than others. If you’re specifically looking for local maps, the state library (or large county or city libraries!) is a good place to start.
Some library collections to check out:
- The British Library — they also have images of globes
- California State Library
- New York Public Library Digital Collections— they have New York maps, US maps, and international maps!
- Penn State University’s Digital Map Drawer
- Toronto Public Library’ Digital Archive Ontario project
University online repositories
TIP: Many state university and state library collections are hosted on Archive.org, so sometimes it can be quicker just to start searching there.
- Harvard University’s scanned maps collection
- American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection, hosted by the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
- Cornell University Library Map Collection
- John R. Borchert Map Library at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) (click on Digital Collections)
These are websites not specifically tied to a university or library, but provide (free!) map downloads.
- Lunar Topographic Orthophotomap (LTO) Series — moon maps!!
- NYCSubway.org’s Historical Map section — lower quality images but very interesting
There’s lots of great places to find amazing map images, so go explore! Find something amazing to put into your next digital collage!
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