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  • Rebecca Drew

Let's Just Map Québec

If you read the last article in this journal, then you know I mentioned the inclusion of more maps in future articles. Well, I was hoping to include historical maps from places in the United States, but it seems that copyrights are a constant issue. However, public entities in Québec believe in the free distribution of historical maps, so I hope you like Québec, because you're going to get more of it. And truly, I am thrilled! Just note that the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec reconfigured its online catalog around the time of this article, so the links may only work on a laptop or desktop. Cell phones seem to have issues with retrieving these maps.

All this started when I read the rules for using images from a certain Kansas agency. I have to say, Kansans are thorough. The website made it clear, without much guessing, that their maps belong to them, and only them, and you better submit a permission form, and if they deem you worthy of their standards, then maybe, just maybe, you'll get to post one of their precious maps, but only after paying a fee, of course. Another entity in a southern state is not quite as possessive about their maps, understanding that many of these centuries-old maps are part of the public domain, and they were originally intended for governmental purposes, anyway. However, you better call them first, and they'll take it from there.


Another southern state, in its perpetual "dither and delay" mode, does not make their stance clear. It reminded me of those accusations flying around during the Brexit rounds, and it's not surprising that much of that southern state's ancestry is tied to dear old (and beloved) Britain. And yes, it's a place I dearly love, regardless!


Basically, entities and people of the United States often love lawsuits, and they will look for the tiniest excuse to start one. Not being in the mood for that, I went back to Québec records, clarifying what I already knew. Sure enough, generous permissions are granted for many of their historic maps, and I have been careful to use public domain maps thus far. I wondered why so many Québeckers seem so generous with their own findings, including detailed maps. It makes sense that the national sentiment is steered toward open-access. Ironically, they have much stricter standards for protecting the privacy of people descending from Québec, while the United States generally does not offer privacy protections once people die, unless they are super-important government officials whose misdeeds need to be covered up a few centuries longer.


Wow, this is not exactly where I was aiming to go after the 4th of July, because I still love the United States. Perhaps it's just my frustration with wanting to share the heritage of this country with maps, yet always being careful not to offend, in case some entity thinks they have been wronged by an innocent use of maps. Meanwhile, I will share maps similar to the one seen above, which can be found at the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec. Many thanks to Québec for sharing its generous heart, and historical treasures, with the rest of us!


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