National Geographic Giant Traveling Maps

On paper, the idea of National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps seems almost ludicrous. These are truly giant maps — 26 feet by 33 to 35 feet (8m by 10-10.7 m) — that ship folded and rolled in tubes 10 to 12 feet (3-3.7 m) long that weigh around 145 pounds (66 kg). There are maps of North America, South America, Africa and Asia, with the Pacific Ocean coming later in 2011, but you can’t buy one. There are only 10 maps in existence. You can, however, rent one: National Geographic loans them out to schools and other facilities. They won’t fit in a classroom, but have to be unfolded and unrolled in a gymnasium or something similarly large. The maps are made of vinyl: they’re meant to be walked on, but wearing socks, not shoes. It costs schools $480 to rent one for two weeks; for others it costs $700. Because what could be better than a ginormous map, than a portable ginormous map that you can have delivered?

More information on borrowing a map; there’s also a FAQ. Wandering Educators has an interview with the program’s director, Dan Beaupré. A brief item in the Times Union. Via @geoparadigm: 1, 2.

(I have no idea why I didn’t follow up on the Contours blog post about it from October 2008. I mean I flagged it in my RSS reader … )