Re-visiting David Rumsey in Second Life

David Rumsey Maps

A January 12th, 2021 Destination Guide blog post by Linden Lab reminded me that it has been seven-and-a-half years since my first – and up until now, only – visit to the remarkable David Rumsey Maps in Second Life (see: If maps are your thing, Rumsey’s the king!). A length of time that marks a return visit as long overdue, so I decided to jump over and renew my own acquaintance with the four-region facility.

As both the Linden blog post and my own post from 2013 note, David Rumsey Maps in Second Life is a direct annexe to the David Rumsey Map Collection. This an on-line collection of more than 150,000 maps with a focus on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, but which includes maps of Asia, Africa, Europe  and Oceania. The collection stretches back over 30 years, with a programme to digitise them all commencing in 1996.

The collection’s website is powered by LUNA, one of the world’s leading digital asset management tools, one that is used world-wide around educational, research and science institutions. In particular, the software allows visitors to the website to view multiple maps from different time periods side-by-side and also to create and curate their own collections of maps from the library, according to their interest / requirements.

David Rumsey amid items of his map, atlas and globe collection, circa 1996. Credit: David Rumsey Collection

This ability to interact with the collection was expanded in 2008, when the Rumsey collection realised Second Life could be a unique environment by which people could visit and interacts with elements of their collection in a unique manner, and their presence in Second Life has been periodically updated since then.

The core of the facility comprises a visitor centre and a 4-region terrain elevation map of Yosemite Park dating from the 1880s, and which visitors are free to fly over / down town and walk across (to see it all, you should set your draw distance to at least 512m). Around the outer edges of the four regions – which are arranged in a square – is a series of panels – up to 50 on a side – displaying individual maps that can be studied by taking a walk around the boundaries, together with a 3D view across the Grand Canyon amidst the panels on one side.

David Rumsey Maps

Within the visitor centre are more maps – forty of which are available to collect at no charge – and several of what should be interactive elements – map viewers, a media recording of a presentation by David Rumsey himself, etc. Unfortunately, on my return visit, none of these would respond to being touched, nor would the large world map directly outside of the visitor centre, which is designed to allow you to rez a pin on your physical world location and place it on the map with a message of up to 140 characters.

Two skywalks extend from this map platform, each one displaying a ribbon map that can be walked. The first – and longer of these – is featured in the Second Life blog post. It is a reproduction of a map of the Tōkaidō road (“”eastern sea route”), the most important of the five great trade routes linking Edo (as Tokyo was then known) to other major Japanese centres of commerce – in this case, Kyoto on the east coast of Honshū. The second ribbon map,on the shorter skywalk  (which connects to the outer map walk) is a reproduction of a map from the late 1800s showing steamboat routes on the Mississippi.

We built the 4 {regions} in 2008 and have continued to update them since then. One of the things that fascinated me early on was the potential to “walk” on the historic maps and fly around them in SL. The Yosemite map which forms the floor of the site was built with a full elevation model so that it is accurate and in scale. The map is the first truly accurate map of the Yosemite Valley made by U.S. Army topographers in 1883.

– David Rumsey, via Linden Lab

David Rumsey Maps

While flying is not required to see all the maps, it is needed to see the two large globes floating over the Yosemite map. Eash is a reproduction of globes created by Giovanni Maria Cassini (not to be confused with the astronomer, Giovanni Domenico Cassini) – one of the earth and the other of the heavens surrounding it. Both can be flown in, where information boards can be found describing each of them, set over two orreys modelled on the time of Cassini – each fails to record Neptune and Uranus, as those planets had yet to be discovered.

Despite some of the interactive elements not appearing to work, David Rumsey Maps remains an engaging and educational visit.

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2 thoughts on “Re-visiting David Rumsey in Second Life

    1. Of course it’s not coincidence. As I actually state in the opening paragraph, it was seeing the Lab’s Jan 12th blog post on Rumsey – which includes that video – which prompted me to make a re-visit after 7.5 years since my first…

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