“Being a map collector isn't like being a wine collector, because you assume a bottle of wine will eventually be consumed,” Lester said. “Collecting maps is somewhat similar to having a coin collection, in that maps were printed in multiples, so generally more than one exemplar exists. Still, many are quite rare.”
Oklahoma City architect Anthony McDermid, principal at TAP Architecture, said he understands why Lester is drawn to historic maps. He also loves and collects books of certain types of historical maps.
“They are wonderful paths to history and are intrinsically beautiful,” McDermid said. “I grew up in Bristol, England, where we had ordnance survey maps that were incredibly detailed about all of England. More recently, I'm fascinated by old railroad maps of the American West, which were instrumental in opening the West.”
Today, he looks for a slight tilt in landscapes to possibly see the ghost of railroad lines where railroad beds were once located. He also loves highway and interstate maps.
“Maps are dynamic and they're constantly changing,” McDermid said. “I grew up with British Commonwealth maps where the commonwealth countries were in pink and that changed significantly over time. Maps capture a brief moment in history.”
He said he sees many framed maps used to decorate offices.
“They're popular as design elements, and wonderful things to look at and read,” McDermid said. “It is almost like the saying, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.' That's what a map says to me — it shortens the narrative.”
He recommends map enthusiasts take advantage of the Oklahoma Historical Society's website to review old state maps and to also to seek out Sanborn maps.
These include maps of Oklahoma City created every five years and compiled by the Sanborn Map Co. for use by insurance companies and used to insure area properties.
“They documented every building and business in Oklahoma City up through the 1960s,” McDermid said. “Somewhere out there, there is a map you can connect with.”
He said he connected strongly to an aerial photograph taken during World War II that designated where the Germans planned to bomb Bristol, England, which suffered heavy damage during the war.
“It was dramatic and took my breath away, especially when you see your house and where the Germans were going to bomb.”