If maps are your thing, Rumsey’s the king!

The David Rumsey Map Collection is just about everything any cartographer with an interest in the history of the subject and a particular focus on the Americas could ever want. Over 39,000 maps are on file – although these also include various maps of Africa, Asia and Europe. The maps can be accessed through a number of online viewers and services – including Second Life!

David Rumsey Maps
David Rumsey Maps

The SL exhibit covers four adjoining regions and presents a number of displays, information boards and links to the main website which, taken together, form an interactive means of study and offers the opportunity to learn about cartography.

The arrival point comprises an information centre where you can learn about David Rumsey Maps, the SL exhibit and access teleports to the various displays. Directly outside of this is a push-pin map of the world, with the invitation for visitors to move one of several push-pin “givers” over their home location, add a pin and leave a message of up to 140 characters in length.

David Rumsey Maps

Below this, and covering all four regions is a gigantic topographical map of Yosemite Park and its surrounding areas, circa 1883, complete with a floating observation deck. Control options allow you to view the map with full bright on or off, and as a 3D relief display (using sculpts) or a conventional 2D map.

Above the 4-region map is a small orientation centre for those new to SL, and above that is a reproduction of J.H Colton’s 1836 map of New York. complete with models of some well-known landmarks (such as the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall) which help give the map context to modern eyes.

David Rumsey Maps

Elsewhere in the build are touch-boards on the Map walk which surrounds all four regions and the gigantic Tower of Maps, which provide direct access to various maps and pages on the website. You can also hop inside two globe maps or admire a Japanese scroll map.

All-in-all this is an extensive and excellent use of Second Life, with the information centre also providing audio / video presentations as well as a range of collectibles (40 in all), which you can pick-up as you explore. There is also a skyborne auditorium, but I’m not sure if that is still running the advertised programme (I’ve managed to miss hopping over there at noon SLT to find out the last few times it has crossed my mind to check…).

David Rumsey Maps

David Rumsey Maps makes for a worthwhile visit for anyone interested in cartography, and an engrossing use of Second Life. One word of advice should you visit – turn up your drawn distance to at least 512m to get the fullest benefit.

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Filtering my view of Second Life

In my explorations of Second Life, I’ve tended to rely purely on the tools available within the viewer for snapshots.

My main reason for doing this is because I’m no graphics artist; frankly, and as I’ve said before, Photoshop gives me a case of the heebee-geebies within five minutes of starting it. I’ve no idea why, but I’ve come to accept that somewhere in the depths of my mind, I’ve created some kind of barrier which prevents me getting my head around it. I’ve fared better with GIMP, which I’ve used to create textures, alpha layers, my custom tiger tattoo and, more recently, normal maps (even if my PC doesn’t seem to particularly like the Windows 7 32-bit version of the normal map plug-in).

There’s also the fact that the viewer itself contains a wealth of options to enhance both photography and machinima. These aren’t always easy to find, given they can be buried in debug settings, etc. But a number of TPVs offer ways and means of accessing them, making the happy snapper’s life (i.e. mine), a lot easier.

Phototools, in particular has been a huge boon in this as it brings together so many photo-related options buried within the viewer all together under one floater for Firestorm users (and can, with some tweaking, be offered-up through other viewers if you know what you’re doing). With vignetting now added to it, it is a very powerful tool. Dolphin, Exodus and Niran’s viewer (to name the three that I’ve also used, snapshot-wise) also pool together various options for photographers under manageable menus as well.

Items such as Vincent Nacon’s optional cloud layers (again, an option in Firestorm, and which can be added to other viewers), also do an incredible amount to enhance in-world shots without the need for post-processing.

Keisei - "watercolour on canvas"
Keisei – “watercolour on canvas”

But one cannot swim in the shallows forever. So I’ve been playing around with GIMP’s in-built filters and a couple of plug-ins. I’m not about to claim I’m an expert or doing anything particularly clever in doing so – and I’m certainly not up to the standards of many who have mastered the subtle art of post-processing; but I’d thought I’d post a couple of the results of my fiddlings here.

I’ve also added the images to the appropriate sets in my Flicker pages.

Forgotten City - "pen and ink"
Forgotten City – “pen and ink”

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