Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Aerial photos in the Library's Map Collection

The Library has acquired an extensive collection of aerial photographs-- approximately 24,000 in all-- of the Massachusetts landscape, used for almost 50 years to map land use and land use change in the Commonwealth. Initiated by Forestry Professor Emeritus William P. "Mac" MacConnell ’43, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to be completely mapped in this fashion. The project became the foundation for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wetlands Inventory. The collection can be used in the Library's Map Collection on the 2nd floor of Du Bois.
For a couple of years while I was in grad school at UMass, I worked with the MacConnell maps, digitizing land use change. I was fascinated with the process and the photos. My supervisors then, Kate Jones (now at the Franklin Regional Council of Governments GIS) and David Goodwin (now at the Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation's Forestry Management Program), told me about their long histories analyzing the photos with stereoscopes (also on display in the Map Collection). They related the history of The Raccoon Wars, which began with a prank that involved painting the black eyepieces of the stereoscopes with black ink, so that the user would finish her or his work with dark rings around the eyes. Ever since, I've been waiting to use that tactic.

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