The Discovery and Exploration Collection is an amalgamation of primary sources of a variety of types relating to global surveys of new lands across time. The vast majority of the sources included in the collection are maps, but it also holds manuscripts and other documents related to the exploration of the world. This collection holds sources from the 15th to the 19th century, focusing on various points of discovery, such as European expansion as well as American exploration on the North American continent. The maps in the collection depict many geographical points of view, including the entire globe, specific areas of focus such as America itself, or even of specific coastlines. The manuscripts often take similar focus, and describe the area in words rather than with images.

Beyond this collection, the Library of Congress website is an open-access resource available for students and teachers to browse. It boasts a wide selection of documents, many of which are free to use. These documents include photographs, books, films, web archives, legislation and more, from a range of subjects and time periods. The Library of Congress also offers some lesson plans making use of primary sources they host, a blog describing teaching methods, and other resources to enhance both the student and teacher experience. These resources, combined with its easy to use platform, make it, as well as this collection, great resources and guides for use in the classroom.

This collection is extremely broad in its focus, making it a useful resource for students studying a variety of time periods or geographical areas. These maps specifically can be used in lessons about the discovery and exploration of the New World, colonization, or even Manifest Destiny, in addition to the more technical question of how map-making and the Western understanding of the globe has evolved. Not all of the documents are available in English, but that doesn’t preclude students from making use of these sources considering maps’ visual nature. Finally, in addition to the primary sources themselves, the collection also includes articles and essays attached to this presentation that add context to the collection.

Reviewed by Carolyn Mason, George Mason University
How to Cite This Source
Carolyn Mason, Discovery and Exploration in World History Commons,