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Historical Context

A bird’s eye map shows a place from an aerial perspective. Imagine looking out over a city as a bird high in the sky. It’s likely mapmakers obtained this view through hot airbollons. Mapmakers practiced this method of maping for centuries. However, bird’s eye maps didn’t became popular until the late 19th century.

During this time, small towns and urban centers all over the United States clammered for bird’s eye view maps. One reason for their popularity is that the maps offered buisnesses and organization a great way to promote themselves. As a result, businesses, churches, and individuals paid money to the mapmaker to have their buildings included. In sum, these maps are often an idyllic view of a place, showing progress, peace, and wealth.

Learning Objectives

A key consideration when using Bird’s Eye View maps is to use locations students may be familiar with. The maps in this kit offer a variety of locations throughout Michigan, and were created to advertise different aspects of each town. Using Dimensions 2 and 3 of the C3 Framework, Arc of Inquiry, students can analyze the maps, interpret point of view, context, bias and frame of reference. Students can also examine change over time not only in their community, but in communities across Michigan.

Michigan Social Studies Standards

  • 3-H3.0.1 – Explain how historians use primary and secondary sources to answer questions about the past.
  • 3-H3.0.7 – Use a variety of primary and secondary sources to construct a historical narrative about daily life in the early settlements of Michigan.
  • 3-G1.0.2 – Use thematic maps to identify and describe the physical and human characteristics of Michigan.
  • 4-H3.0.5 – use visual data and informational text or primary accounts to compare a major Michigan economic activity today with that same activity or a related activity in the past.
  • 4-G2.0.2 – Locate and describe human and physical characteristics of major U.S. regions and compare them to the Great Lakes region – teachers can use Bird’s Eye from other cities and compare characteristics. Maybe we can link to the LOC Bird’s Eye views.

Primary Sources on Michiganology

Adrian is spelled out at the base of an illustration of a building at Adrian College.

Adrian

Description

Printed black and white birds-eye-view of the city of Adrian, Michigan.

Collection

Adrian

Date

1866
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The bottom half reads

Birds Eye View of the City of Lansing

Description

Printed birds-eye view of Lansing, Michigan.

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The bottom reads

Birds Eye View of Jonesville

Description

Printed birds-eye view of Jonesville, Michigan.

Date

1872
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Ilustrated ariel view of trees, green medow, and one street. Botoom reads

Birds Eye View of Saline

Description

Printed birds-eye view of Saline, Michigan.

Date

1872
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At the top reads

Petoskey in 1880 [Birds Eye View]

Description

Printed birds-eye view of Petoskey, Michigan.

Date

1880
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Ilustrated ariel view of trees, green medow, and one street. Botoom reads

Bird's Eye View of Montague, Muskegon Co., Mich.

Description

Printed birds-eye view of Montague, Michigan.

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Ilustrated ariel view of trees, green medow, and one street. Botoom reads

Bird's Eye View of Whitehall, Muskegon Co., Mich.

Description

Printed birds-eye view of Whitehall, Michigan.

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Ilustrated ariel view of a harbor. Bottom reads

Houghton, Mich. [Birds Eye View] Population 2500

Description

Printed birds-eye view of Houghton, Michigan.

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Panoramic View of the City of Coldwater

Panoramic View of the City of Coldwater

Description

Printed birds-eye view of Coldwater, Michigan.

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Benton Harbor, Mich Looking North West

Benton Harbor, Mich Looking North West

Description

Printed birds-eye view of Benton Harbor, Michigan.

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Ilustrated ariel view of the port of Muskegon. Bottom reads

Birds-Eye View of Muskegon Michigan From Muskegon Lake Looking East

Description

Printed birds-eye view of Muskegon, Michigan.

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