May 27, 2009
By David Darlington
Along the lines of Perspectives on History’s May 2009 theme issue of history and digital technology, historians may be interested in the web site Henry Hudson 400. This site celebrates the 400th anniversary of explorer Henry Hudson’s 1609 voyage to the Americas in search of a water passage to the Pacific Ocean.
Borrowing from the National Archives of the Netherlands, Henry Hudson 400 has taken a selection of rare maps and documents, and in collaboration with Google, overlaid them onto contemporary Google maps of the same areas. The site features 32 historical maps of the 17th-century Dutch trading empire and New Amsterdam. Users will find planning and survey maps of New York City and Amsterdam, historical world maps and illustrations, and charts tracing Hudson’s four voyages (1607–11) to the New World. Each of the maps and charts has a paragraph describing its origins and importance. The maps tell the story of 17th-century exploration and the history of the early Dutch settlement of New York. On Hudson’s third voyage (1609), ice storms near the North Pole forced a U-turn that led the explorer and the crew on his boat, the Half Moon, to drop anchor along “Manna hata,” or “Land of the Hills,” which led to the first Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam. The overlay of the historic maps over Google allows users to follow Hudson on each of his journeys. Users can also find a short biographical sketch of Henry Hudson on the web site, and, as a part of the map section, biographies of some of the earliest New Yorkers (see the “Origins” tab).
The maps and documents featured on the web site will also be shown at a special exhibit at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City. The exhibit runs September 13-December 31, 2009. The nonprofit Henry Hudson 400 Foundation has scheduled several other events recognizing the Hudson anniversary throughout the year. Those events can also be found on the web site.