By Wendy Ennes
e-Learning Consultant

Open up most world history textbooks and you will find a lot of maps – maps with easy-to-read, color-coded cues to geographic features, longitude and latitude, the movement and dissemination of cultures, and conquered landscapes. As informative as they are, these instructional maps do little to illuminate the era they are intended to reflect because they are but present-day reinterpretations of the past.

The advent of the World Wide Web and digitization has ushered in a time of unprecedented educator access to a global array of primary sources. For educators who are interested in enhancing their World History curriculum the new Mapping Mediterranean Lands Website is worth a serious visit.

Originally conceived as a project to inventory the map collections of independent American research centers in and around the Mediterranean region, the Mapping Mediterranean Lands or MedMaps Project Website is a rich resource for scholars, historians, and world history educators alike. The head cartographer of the MedMaps Project, Leonora Navari, chose the sixteen maps featured on this Website for their rarity and unique attributes. Ranging from the exquisitely detailed Peutingeriana tabula itineraria of 250 CE to Alain Mallet’s encyclopedic 1683 interpretation of the route from Morocco to Mecca and a Trans-Jordan track map: Sharq Al-Urdun-kartt Muasalat from 1945 of meandering footpaths and goat tracks in a region east of the Jordan river, these primary source maps act as social documents and witnesses to the past.

In the Teacher Resources area of the Website is a grid listing all of the sixteen maps in chronological order with links to downloadable high resolution PDF’s of their images. Exemplary lesson plans from respected University of Illinois and Chicago Public School educators accompany some of the maps and adhere to National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) standards. There is also an area listing curriculum ideas for the maps that acts as a springboard for educators who wish to develop their own lesson plans and submit them for posting onto the site.

Other resources can be found on the Website but require a little more detective work. It was interesting to explore the various research center links that can be found in the About MEDMAPS section. While some of the smaller research centers don’t have the resources to support online archives and collections, a few of the larger ones do share their collections online. For instance, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens features information on archaeological excavations in the region and an online photographic collection. The Photographic Archive of the American Academy in Rome consists of several valuable and specialized collections of photographs on archaeology, architecture and art, as well as landscape architecture and gardens.

While the original plan to catalogue and inventory all of the maps in the collections of these institutions was completed in 2005, the digitization of only sixteen of these maps was part of the pilot project. With adequate funding and imagination the Mapping Mediterranean Lands Project Website has the potential of expanding into a deeply interactive and exceedingly rich online resource for scholars, researchers and educators all over the world.