The maps selected for this digital project document the cartographic history and context of the American West, the American Southwest, Nevada, and Southern Nevada, telescoping in scale from the Western Hemisphere to the streets of Las Vegas. Maps were selected to highlight the collection, both in terms of individually important maps and in the breadth and variety of the collection.
These maps provide not only a history of the region through its changing political boundaries, but also a history of map-making and the development of the cartographic knowledge of this area. They also demonstrate the great variety of purposes of map making, as maps were, and are, created for a variety of purposes showing different kinds of features which provide different types of information.
Early maps were works of imagination or imperial ambition as nations sought to publish their claims to vast territories, even continents or hemispheres, by royal or papal edict, the planting of a flag, and the drawing of a map. As astronomical knowledge and instruments became more sophisticated, mapping became more accurate and scientific. Maps became legal documents and evidence of boundaries and property rights. Maps were used for advertising and promotion, planning and projections. They were the records of geological history, natural and human resources, environmental conditions and the engineering of the environment, through water resource management or highway construction. It is hoped that this project demonstrates what a critical historical resource maps are, and how important it is to preserve them.