I went downtown to the LA Central Library for the first time today. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, since it’s something of an historical and architectural landmark, and apparently the third largest public library in the U.S. in terms of books and periodical holdings. I didn’t wander around the building all that much today, since I’m in the throes of writing my dissertation. I just poked around enough to get a sense of the enormity of the place before settling in at a big table with my books and laptop for a few hours of work.
Before leaving, however, we stopped in at a gem of an exhibit on the 2nd floor called L.A. Unfolded: Maps From the Los Angeles Public Library. There are all kinds of fascinating items on display, including maps of the ranchos of Los Angeles in 1800s, surveys of the greater LA area, maps of downtown before Wilshire Blvd was named and Bunker Hill was razed, and a full-color map image of the U.S. depicting the mass displacement of people all over the country during WWII (which, significantly, includes an image of a Japanese interment camp). There are also a few non-U.S. maps, but by and large the collection focuses on our ciudad de los angeles.
I was particularly fascinated by the maps that still showed the LA transit system intact and the city sans freeways. What a completely different place! I tried to take some pictures and have included them below for what they’re worth, but unfortunately they’re not very good (resolution on my iPhone not so great, plus reflection from the glass display casing). Here’s hoping that the good digital library folks will scan in some of these beauties soon for our digital perusal! Anybody know if the Hypercities project is making use of any of these images for their LA site?