Despite the popularity of built in GPS systems, mountable GPS systems, handheld GPS devices and even the ability to find maps on cell phones, some people still prefer a good old fashioned paper map. Not everyone is willing though to spread out a paper map, much less try to refold it, with so many technological gadgets available. After so many years, an aged map or Atlas book actually becomes risky business. So what are folks to do with old maps when they clean out their desk, their glove boxes, their trunks and their suitcases? Of course you can take a map to a recycling center to the mixed paper bin or you could even shred it and add it to your compost pile but there are many ways to repurpose and reuse old maps.
If a map is particularly interesting, historically significant, attractive or of a place that holds sentimental in your heart, framing an old map creates an inexpensive piece of artwork that is well suited for an office, study, library or den.
You’ve no doubt seen references more than once to going green and saving money by wrapping gifts in newspapers or comic papers. Old maps make great wrapping paper. Even pages from an old Atlas book can be used to wrap smaller gifts.
If you’ve got a shredder you can repurpose old maps into packing material or better yet make some great Easter basket grass for every kid you know and lets stop buying the plastic Easter grass. It’s impossible to keep the plastic basket grass from flying around outdoors. I’ve even seen it built into bird’s nest and you know it is not a “green building material.”
The heavy weight of old maps is great for making party hats for birthdays, New Year’s Eve or anytime you want to have some fun and celebrate on the cheap. You can find paper party hat crafts here at skiptomylou.org.
Share old maps with scrapbookers. Maps make great backgrounds for vacation scrapbooking albums, camp scrapbooks and so on.
You wouldn’t have to be too crafty to use a map to decorate a wooden frame or for that matter to re-cover an unattractive or cheap frame. A map themed frame would be fun for vacation photos. Remove the back and glass from the photo frame and wrap overlapping strips of map paper around the frame. Paint over with a layer of Modge Podge and allow to fully dry before reassembling.
Donate old maps to a school or library or anywhere place that creates bulletin boards. Maps can be used for bulletin board backgrounds or cut into borders or even letters for a more eco-friendly bulletin board.
The weight of paper maps makes them ideal for making homemade kites. You can find directions for paper kite crafts here.
At home or at school, old maps also make wonderful textbook covers or book dust jackets. Keep these old maps in mind when kids are creating their own handmade and handwritten book covers too.
Put a paper map into a pocket of your picnic basket or soft cooler and reuse it as a picnic table cover for your next family picnic.
True Story: I wrote 99% of this article on repurposing old maps, saved it, turned off the computer and headed to New York City for the weekend. While shopping at South Street Seaport, I saw two statues of paper mache animals in the window of an art shop and guess what they were covered with? Yes, these paper mache statues were covered with old maps!