Perhaps the most important New York City Illustrated Map is not about the city itself but rather what is found in the wealth of information provided by the American Museum of Natural History. Currently, the museum is transforming a huge part of their collections into digitized versions. They wanted to utilize data from history in order to present to scientists just how dangerous is the current ecosystems because of the modern changes. The challenge now is that coders during the latest hackathon expressed how immense the project ahead.
They are planning to map out the marine ecosystems and what it used to look like based on the data gathered by the museums. For example, the work of Roy W. Miner is a marine biologist and he is New York City’s American Museum of Natural History’s curator. He is the one who gathered coral specimens at the Andros Reef as well as the Bahamas between 1920s and 1930s.
If he is to go back now to the same spot where he collected the coral specimens, the changes he will witness would be devastating. This is the same impact they wanted to show scientists in order for them to recognize the gravity of the impact the past years have made on the marine ecosystems.
American Museum of Natural History’s curatorial associate, Christine Johnson, said that they do not have the largest coral collection but it is quite diverse thus, its value cannot be neglected. She added that going back to the same areas will reveal the species distribution of a centennial ago.
Their museum is not the only one digitizing their collection because many research institutions along with natural history museums are also making the effort. They wanted easy access to the biodiversity of the world which is recorded in the past. This is a very important step towards determining the current state of the world’s biodiversity.
While it would be great to see other form of arts such as New York City Illustrated Map, these works are considered to be very urgent in order to help the vulnerable ecosystems recover.