May 2006

Severe Weather Imagery for Google Earth

Real-time data (or at least near real-time data) exists in the online mapping world, just not the real-time satellite and aerial imagery that uninformed people get exercised about — take traffic congestion data, for example. Weather data is another possibility for satellite imagery, and radar images are even more up to date. Which brings me to the real-time severe weather imagery for Google Earth being made available by NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory as part of their Warning Decision Support System — Integrated Information project. Essentially, you’re getting KMZ files of satellite and radar imagery layers. This sounds handy — incredibly practical for stormtracking and the like. I’ll have to give it a try. Via Google Earth Blog.

Earthshots

Landsat image of Orlando, Florida (2000)Earthshots: Satellite Images of Environmental Change is a collection of Landsat images of certain locations from different years (usually from 1972 to 2000) that show the changes to agriculture, urbanization and other activities in Landsat’s false-colour imagery, from the Ogallala Aquifer to the Aral Sea. A little dated — the site was last updated in 2001 — and a bit hard to follow, since Landsat imagery isn’t always straightforward, but there’s lots of explanation on the site. Also via Plep.

See previous entries: One Planet, Many People; One Planet, Many People Redux.

Barnard’s Stars

Edward Emerson Barnard’s posthumous 1927 work, A Photographic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way, has been digitized in its entirety and put on the web by Georgia Tech; here is the web site. Browsable by region and searchable; both photographic plates and charts (at right, the Pleiades) are available in surprisingly large resolutions. Via Plep.

China Surveying Hoh Xil Region

China’s official Xinhua news agency reports that the Chinese government has begun mapping a large uninhabited region of western China, variously called Hoh Xil or Kekexili, in the northwestern part of the Tibetan plateau, as part of a project to map China’s vast western “blind area.” A 1:50,000-scale topographic map of Hoh Xil is expected to be completed by 2010. Via Colby Cosh.

Two Killed During GPS Treasure Hunt

Two men were killed when their Jeep plunged into a ravine in Kern County, California, north of Los Angeles, during what’s described as a GPS treasure hunt (geocaching?). Via GPS Tracklog, where Rich promises to post more details as they come available. He takes issue with the article’s headline (“GPS game: Men drive off cliff, die”) — “surely they did not drive over a cliff because their GPS told them to,” he writes.

Update, June 1: GPS Tracklog has more details — they struck the side of a canyon wall and veered over the cliff.

Google Earth Will Be Ported to Linux

Mentioned in passing during coverage of the Linux release of Google’s Picasa photo software is the news that a Linux port of Google Earth has been in the works. From the Linux Today article:

[Google Open Source Program Manager Chris] DiBona indicated that Google made a public committment to begin porting two applications to Linux about a year ago. The other application in this project is Google Earth. Picasa for Linux was announced first simply because it was finished first.
When asked if the additions to WINE would bootstrap Google Earth’s porting progress, DiBona answered in the negative, explaining that Google Earth relied on Qt and GL libraries and code, so additional WINE support would not help. No timeline for that application’s release was revealed at this time.

Via Google Earth Blog.

Review: How to Lie with Maps

How to Lie with Maps (Second Edition)
by Mark Monmonier
University of Chicago Press, 1996. Softcover, 220 pp. ISBN 0-226-53421-9

While reading this modern classic by Syracuse University geography professor Mark Monmonier (see previous entry), I was struck by how much common ground this book shares with the recent Making Maps by John Krygier and Denis Wood (reviewed here). Both books are about mapmaking choices, but where Krygier and Wood are fundamentally prescriptive — don’t do that; this is better — Monmonier is not only prescriptive but cautionary. Where Monmonier prescribes, it’s in the context of what the mapmaker intends: i.e., if you’re trying to present a point of view (or fool the public), here are some of the ways to do it. As a corollary, he is cautionary: watch out for maps that do this. How to Lie with Maps is as much a warning for map readers as much as mapmakers, the user as much as the designer.

All maps deceive, says Monmonier, because they must be selective in the information they present: projections distorts, angles or shapes; maps at small scale leave out detail included in large-scale maps; lines must be displaced, smoothed or simplified and area features simplified for readability’s sake. But, he writes, “[b]ecause most map users willingly tolerate white lies on maps, it’s not difficult for maps also to tell more serious lies” (p. 1). The reason for this is that maps have a dual purpose: not only to inform their audience, but also to impress them — to persuade, to make a point, to sell a product. It may be as straightforward as advertising suggesting that your store is in a convenient location, or that your rail line is more direct than it actually is. But it can also be as subtle as your choice of colour or shading; Monmonier spends quite a bit of time on choropleth maps and the impact of different class breaks. And it can be insidious: maps’ normative function makes countries assert disputed territorial claims (Kashmir, Argentine Antarctica) on postage stamps; maps deliberately in error to conceal secrets or fool the enemy; non-existent “trap streets” to catch plagiarism among your cartographic competitors (see previous entry).

Monmonier even provides eleven rules for developers trying to convince the town planning board (e.g., rule eight: “Distract with aerial photographs and historical maps”) — intelligence that can be used as much by the developers’ opponents and the planning board as the developers themselves. The point of the book is to raise awareness of these sorts of cartographic tricks, whether they’re used for good or for ill; the end result is an improvement in cartographic literacy. This puts How to Lie with Maps in the same league as Darrell Huff’s How to Lie with Statistics (no doubt the inspiration for Monmonier’s title), E. H. Carr’s What Is History? or any similar text on media and public relations. In other words, essential reading, if not a civic duty for an educated public essential to a democracy.

More on my book review policy.

A Microsoft Roundup

Jeff Thurston thinks that MapCruncher (see previous entry) is “innovative”: “It would be interesting to see ‘artistic’ mapping using MapCruncher — personal mind maps, etched drawings, action/reaction layers and other kinds of unique maps created with this product. In other words, maps ‘out side of the traditional box’ — more abstract.”

Via Virtual Earth has an article about version 3 of the Virtual Earth API.

Mashups vs. Mixins: As if we needed another neologism, the Virtual Earthers are coining “mixins” to describe the Collections feature — as opposed to “mashups” which provide their data in your application.

See previous entry: Major Windows Live Local Update.

LA County Hiking Maps

Hikers with GPS receivers have mapped out previously uncharted trails between Santa Clarita and Palmdale in northern Los Angeles County, California, the LA Daily News reports. The maps, which were tentatively approved by the county’s Regional Planning Commission this week, are available online as PDF files, but they’re big: Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley (overall, 7.5 MB); Santa Clarita Valley (5.2 MB); Antelope Valley (3.7 MB). Via All Points Blog.

Travel Time Maps

mySociety’s travel-time maps demonstrate a way to use coloured maps with contour lines to show travel times, taking as examples rail travel and driving times from points in Cambridge, Edinburgh and London (at right, rail travel time from Cambridge, with contours at one-hour intervals). It’s an effective way to visualize something that isn’t necessarily obvious. The site outlines their methodology, data used and potential next steps. Via Boing Boing.

Online Map Mindshare

Stefan compares U.S.-only data from Hitwise and Google Trends that attempt to approximate mindshare for the various mapping sites (and which show MapQuest way out in front) with the equivalent global Google Trends data, and comes to the following conclusion, which I found interesting: “MapQuest’s brand awareness is largely a U.S. phenomenon — probably because MapQuest has traditionally been weak in non-U.S. maps.”

Trackbacks Off

I’ve disabled trackbacks: too much spam was getting through the filters; not enough legitimate pings received to make it worthwhile; and sending trackback pings to other servers frequently generated errors that resulted in multiple pings being sent every time I updated an entry. Things will run more smoothly this way.

Major Windows Live Local Update

Windows Live Local got a major update today; see the official blog for an overview of what they call “the biggest release yet of Windows Live Local.”

The update includes real-time traffic data (the TechCrunch post covering the launch has an example and comparison with Yahoo!’s service) and, according to CNet, European coverage and bird’s-eye images for the UK — and supposedly Canada too, though that’s not mentioned elsewhere. Detail is apparently improved around the world; more as I hear about it.

Ed, Frank and Stefan are raving about the quality of the British imagery, which they consider superior to that in Google Maps/Earth.

Other Windows Live Local improvements include user collections and an upgraded API.

Still doesn’t work in Safari, though.

See previous entries: Virtual Earth at Street Level; Windows Live Local Privacy Update; Some Windows Live Local Updates; Windows Live Local Goes Live.

Update, May 25, 8:10 AM:

  • There’s also an Outlook plugin that, among other things, features “automatic time buffering on calendar appointments based on travel time.”
  • James notes that the Phoenix area still suffers from the dated black-and-white aerial photography.

Great Lakes Ice Atlas

The Great Lakes Ice Atlas is a production of NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory; it tracks the winter ice cover of the Great Lakes from 1973 to 2002, usually every few days to a week. Datasets are also available, but some general maps, like the one at right, can be accessed from this page. Via Plep.

Japanese Value-Added Maps

Japanese map publishers are responding to the challenge of car navigation systems by shifting their focus to so-called “value-added maps,” the Asahi Shimbun reports in a profile of Maruzen, a Tokyo bookstore with a large map section.

According to [Jinbun-sha publishing executive Teruo] Ogawa, the sales of road maps have dropped sharply as drivers switch to car navigation systems. He says: “We stopped publishing road atlases for all prefectures except for the Kanto area three years ago because we were losing money. I think value-added maps will now become the norm.”

By value-added maps, they mean maps with extra features — historical, geopolitical, tourist-focused, trivia, even quizzes.

Mapmaker Gets C&D from Chicago Schools

A map of Chicago so good that police and fire departments are distributing it to their stations has run into bureaucratic obstacles from the public school system: when the mapmaker wanted to distribute free copies of the $50 map to schoolchildren, Chicago Public Schools responded with a cease and desist because he didn’t follow protocol. (How typical.) Incidentally, this map sounds fantastic — where can I find one? Via All Points Blog.

Paeans to Paper Maps

A couple of recent comparisons of traditional — even ancient — cartography with the latest mapping technology.

First, Ben Macintyre in The Times (via Cartography):

The paper map will soon die, and with it something central to human experience. There is a joy is not knowing exactly where you are. The electronic gizmo takes you from A to Z, but it does not show you the place you never knew about, off at the side of the map, the road less travelled. The joy of exploration lies in not knowing exactly where you are, or where you are going, in trying to match the visual world outside with the one-dimensional world represented by the map. Wherever you go now, the machine has got there first.
The good news is that maps always adapt, and electronic maps are adapting at an astonishing rate, perhaps returning us to an earlier form of cartography, where the map can tell you just about anything you care to imagine. By marrying digital mapping with all sort of other information, the map of the future will not only inform us where we are, but reveal other things important or interesting: the nearest cheese shop, the density of traffic wardens, the menu of the village pub and perhaps, in a strange realisation of Galton’s map, whether the local inhabitants are attractive or not.

Next, Paul Sullivan in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star:

Cartography, like other arts, has advanced one step at a time. Today, with GPS, satellite imagery and sensors, computer graphics and so many other resources, the work of the mapmaker is easily overlooked. It shouldn’t be. The levels of accuracy and information sought for mapping now were beyond the wildest dreams of a Ptolemy or Mercator or any of the others who made it possible to push back and move into the new frontiers.

Critical Cartographies

The latest issue of ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Cartographers is a special issue on “Critical Cartographies.” The essays examine the political aspects of cartography, in particular, the implications of passing the power to make maps from an expert elite (cartographers) to a broader population (activists, mashup makers). It’s quite academic, so not necessarily an easy read. Thanks to John Krygier for the link.

MapCruncher

MapCruncher is this new thing from Microsoft Research that uses the Virtual Earth API (I guess it’s Virtual Earth for the technology, Windows Live Local for the online mapping site) to integrate your own maps into their system:

Once you get familar with the tool, it will take you about ten minutes to crunch a new map. Just find 5 to 10 corresponding landmarks on your map and on Virtual Earth, and MapCruncher will register your map to the global coordinate system, warp it to fit a Mercator projection, and generate a set of image tiles that can be seamlessly mashed up with VE’s standard road or aerial imagery. It even makes a sample HTML page to show you how to use your mashed-up map.

Windows XP or Server 2003, with the .NET 2.0 runtime. Sounds neat; the gallery of examples doesn’t show up in Safari. More from the press release. Via Scobleizer; see also Anything Geospatial.

Red Herring: Online Maps and Local Advertising

Red Herring:

While not as monomaniacal as the cartographers in Mr. Borges’ fictional empire, the mapmakers busy at work at search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN place a very high value on maps. And their designs don’t lack ambition. In order to tap a local advertising market that the Kelsey Group estimates will reach $124 billion in the United States alone by the end of the decade, Google and its rivals want maps on the web that cover every corner of the country. … Matt Booth, an analyst with the Kelsey Group, says that maps are the shock troops in a campaign to win advertising dollars from the local market. “Mapping is the forefront of a local strategy,” he says.

(Being a Borges nut, I will explain the reference: it refers to a single-paragraph story, “On Exactitude in Science,” from The Maker [1960]; it’s on page 325 of this edition. The story describes a map so vast it’s the same size as the territory being mapped.)

Views of the Earth

I love looking at the images on Views of the Earth: Artificial Images of Our Real Planet, where Christoph Hormann has taken satellite images and reprocessed them. The end results are astonishing: views from a height, on cloudless days, that take into account the Earth’s curvature, particularly in high-altitude images. For each image, Christoph provides coordinates, altitudes and viewing angles; it’s hard to remember that these aren’t real views from space, but processed from data. Via Cartography and Kartentisch.

David Rumsey at the NYPL

New Yorkers, mark your calendars. David Rumsey will be speaking at the NYPL’s Healy Hall on Monday, May 22, at 5:30 PM. Admission is free; rush seating. His talk, “Thinking Locally, Mapping Globally: The Past and Future of Mapping,” is in conjunction with the Places and Spaces exhibition (see previous entry), which is at Healy Hall until August 31. Via MapHist.

See previous entries: David Rumsey Profile; More Map Podcasts; NACIS Annual Meeting; David Rumsey Site Updates.

Two Concepts

First, naive geography, from a 1995 paper by Max Egenhofer and David Mark:

Naive Geography captures and reflects the way people think and reason about geographic space and time, both consciously and subconsciously. Naive stands for instinctive or spontaneous.
Naive geographic reasoning is probably the most common and basic form of human intelligence. Spatio-temporal reasoning is so common in people’s daily life that one rarely notices it as a particular concept of spatial analysis. People employ such methods of spatial reasoning almost constantly to infer information about their environment, how it evolves over time, and about the consequences of changing our locations in space.

The idea is that how ordinary people perceive geography affects how easily they can use GIS applications, which in turn has implications for those applications’ design. But:

Naive Geography is neither childish nor stupid geography, nor is it the geography of ignorant or simple-minded people. It is not geography by the uneducated nor for the uneducated.

Egenhofer and Mark provide some examples of naive geographic reasoning in their paper (PDF).

Second, geospatial semantics, from Harry Chen’s blog on the subject:

Geospatial semantics is the study of how humans perceive geographical concepts in their everyday life, and how to exploit this understanding to create useful computing systems to increase our productivity. …
For example, when a wife says to a husband, “Honey! You’re driving too fast!”, the husband puts on the break and slows the car down. In this scenario, we see that what contributed to the husband’s action is a common understanding of the term “fast” and its semantic relation respect to their current context. The context of this couple includes, for example, (1) their current driving speed and (2) the legal speed limit of the road that they are travelling on. The semantic relation between these factors contributes to the slowing down of their car.

Compare and contrast. Via Slashgeo.

Question: Cataloguing a Map Collection?

My turn to ask a question.

As I mentioned in my review of Kashuba’s Walking with Your Ancestors, I volunteer for a local archive that has a small collection of maps that I should, at some point, catalogue. I’d like to know — if there are any archivists or librarians in the audience — the best way to go about this.

The collection is largely made up of topographical maps a few decades old, as well as some more recent plotter-generated municipal maps, but there are a few outliers and gems, including an insurance atlas from the 1930s. I expect I’ll find more once I start digging through the boxes and drawers that the maps are kept in.

My question is not so much how to store them, but how to describe them: what details, for example, should I include in a listing? Are there accession standards for map cataloguing? Is there software I ought to be using?

Question: Small-town Directions?

Jeff’s getting married, and he needs to provide directions to the wedding’s small-town location.

We’re getting ready to order and send out invitations for our wedding, which will be in a small town in Wisconsin. None of the mapping sites do all that good a job mapping these smaller towns. Is there any software out there you’d recommend to create your own maps — maybe some freeware or shareware? I’ve been to numerous out-of-town weddings where it’s a wonder we made it to them with the maps that were sent with the invites. We’d like to make it a bit easier on our guests and send them something so they won’t get lost. Any insight would be quite helpful. Thanks.

I live in a small town myself, and I’m actually surprised to find how much detail there is on the online mapping sites: my town’s streets are named; directions work. So my experience isn’t necessarily as bad as Jeff’s. It may depend on what each of us is expecting from online maps. Generally speaking, I don’t think you’re going to be able to get the detail you need from a printout of a web page: giving people a URL — or even creating something with one of the mapping APIs — might be more helpful.

The best directions, in my experience, aren’t necessarily computer generated. A photocopy of the relevant section of a paper map, or even a hand drawn map, might be more effective than printing something from Yahoo! or Google, particularly if they’re accompanied by a detailed set of directions. (I’ve provided such directions to people visiting me, and they’ve been able to find me with ordinary highway maps.)

But — my generalities aside — does anyone have any more specific (and, presumably, better) advice for Jeff?

The Marvel of Maps

Thanks to MapHist, a book about maps and art during the Renaissance has been brought to my attention: art historian Francesca Fiorani’s The Marvel of Maps: Art, Cartography and Politics in Renaissance Italy. This book, according to the publisher, “focuses on two of the most significant and marvelous surviving Italian map murals — the Guardaroba Nuova of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, commissioned by Duke Cosimo de’ Medici, and the Gallery of Maps in the Vatican, commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII. Both cycles were not only pioneering cartographic enterprises but also powerful political and religious images.”

Ed Parsons on OpenStreetMap

Ordnance Survey CTO Ed Parsons has a positive take on the OpenStreetMap workshops, despite their positioning themselves as the archenemy of the Ordnance Survey:

I am fully behind the efforts of Steve Coast and the OpenStreetMap movement to create copyright free mapping, the technology is here today and with some bright people and organisation it is completely practical to produce a national street database for Great Britain. … National Mapping Agencies such as the OS need to wake up to these community driven developments, however I really think we must see them not as a threat, but as an opportunity. … There is without question a place for open source “small” scale data, without the high spatial resolution, rich data models and high levels of currency which characterise products like OS MasterMap.

See previous entries: OpenStreetMap: Manchester’s Next; OpenStreetMap to Map Isle of Wight; OpenStreetMap London Poster as Fundraiser; OpenStreetMap; London Free Map.

Amtrak Route Atlas

Amtrak’s previous online attempts at a network map have generally been large PDFs or JPEGs (see previous entry), but they’ve just announced a new, Flash-based interactive route atlas that is much improved over its static predecessors. Click on a route name, and the map zooms to the relevant area and displays the route and stations. Quite responsive. Via All Points Blog (where Adena wants the reservation system integrated into the map).

Huygens Probe Images of Titan

Images of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, taken by the Huygens probe during its descent through Titan’s atmosphere last year, have been released. Mercator projection and stereographic versions have also been made, which makes them maps of a sort. More from the European Space Agency, NASA’s Cassini-Huygens page (check the multimedia archives for May 4), and the page for the DISR imaging project. Via atlas(t) and La Cartoteca.

Book Review: Walking with Your Ancestors by Melinda Kashuba

Walking with Your Ancestors: A Genealogist’s Guide to Using Maps and Geography
by Melinda Kashuba
Family Tree Books, 2005. Softcover, 226 pp. ISBN 1-55870-730-1

I do other things besides this web site; one of these is to volunteer at the local archives, a private organization covering the surrounding county that’s based in my town. As is the case with most archives, large and small, most of our clientele and research activities are centred on genealogical research; as is also the case, much of our holdings is not necessarily of obvious use to genealogists. Amongst that material is our collection of maps (which I have to go through and organize at some point); our latest accession is a nifty fire insurance map of our town dating from the mid-1930s. Since most of our focus is on genealogy, though, the following question might be asked at some point: “Well, Jonathan, these maps are all very interesting, but what are they good for?”

It’s that very question, hypothetical though it may be in my case, that Melinda Kashuba’s book, Walking with Your Ancestors: A Genealogist’s Guide to Using Maps and Geography, answers. While Kashuba, a genealogical researcher with a Ph.D. in geographer, has the genealogical audience in mind, this book could, with a slight change in focus, easily serve as a general introduction to old maps held in American archives — how they were made, how to read them, and how to use them in your research.

In slightly more than two hundred pages, Kashuba covers a lot of ground. We get a lot about how to read old maps — including how to use a gazetteer, which is basic, and how to track down place names that may have changed or moved, which is not. We’re given a good deal of context behind those old maps: how counties were organized, how lands were surveyed, how topographic maps were made. We’re also introduced to the various kinds of map sources: cadastral surveys, county maps, military maps, and fire insurance maps. She even has a section on using GPS.

In her introduction, Kashuba argues that geography is more important to genealogy than history is — an ostensibly strange argument, but it’s hard to refute her assertion that place is central to genealogical research:

Genealogy is a geographically driven subject. There’s no question that history and historical events are important to tracing family trees; those names and dates are vital. But let’s face facts: Records are made and kept by location. That makes geography as important if not more important than history to the genealogist. Knowing where your ancestors lived is the key to finding “the really good stuff” in those records.

True enough, many of the researchers I’ve encountered have had trouble tracking down a name because they weren’t sure where to look. Adding maps to the search can suggest other avenues: if your great-great grandfather isn’t in this town, perhaps he’s in the town down the river — or perhaps he’s got records at the county seat. Among many other things, maps can suggest such connections.

Unfortunately, this book won’t be of much help in my archives; Kashuba’s book is American in scope. But this accessible, engaging book will no doubt be useful to genealogists across the U.S., and should probably be in every local archive’s reference shelf.

I received a review copy of this book. More on my book review policy.

Think Globally, Act Regionally: GIS for the Social Sciences

Think Globally, Act Locally: GIS and Data Visualization for Social Science and Public Policy Research, is a new textbook from ESRI Press. Authored by San Francisco State University urban studies professor Richard LeGates, the book is part of a project to introduce spatial analysis to the social sciences, especially urban planning and public policy. The textbook contains exercises, but requires ArcView, ArcEditor, or ArcInfo 9 to complete them. More from SF State News. Via All Points Blog.

That National Geographic Survey

Last week, the National Geographic Society released the results of the 2006 National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy, which tested young American adults aged 18 to 24 on their geographic knowledge. It’s probably not surprising that the results were not good: despite saturation coverage of the Middle East, most could not find Iraq, Iran, North Korea or Afghanistan on the map; but half couldn’t even find New York on a map of the U.S. The full, 89-page report, with summary, questions and methodology, is available here (PDF).

National Geographic is using the report as the impetus for launching a geographic literacy campaign called My Wonderful World; there was also a one-hour special on the National Geographic Channel last Thursday.

(There was a similar survey conducted in 2002; it tested 18- to 24-year-olds in several countries, not just the U.S.)

It’s worth mentioning that geographic literacy is essential if people are even going to begin to understand the maps out there: electoral maps of the U.S. showing blue, red or purple states are meaningless if few people know where Ohio or Florida is; cartograms are meaningless if few people understand the true shape of the world. It is, in some ways, a matter of shape recognition: knowing, for example, that this squiggly bit is Austria and that squiggly bit is Italy.

But a related issue is cartographic literacy (rather than geographic literacy): the ability to figure out where you are and where you’re going from a map. Not knowing basic facts about India is a problem in the context of global awareness; not knowing how to read a road map is a problem in the context of day-to-day life. The survey does address this question as well: half to two-thirds of respondents were able to answer basic navigational questions based on a fictional map.

Other reactions to the survey: Catholicgauze; Cartography; Gadling; Google Earth Blog.

See previous entries: CSM Review of Why Geography Matters; Fool’s World Map; Handpainted Globes.

The Middle-earth DEM Project

The Middle-earth DEM Project is, writes Carl Lingard, “a non-profit, hobbyists’ project devoted to mapping Middle-earth as a fully georeferenced digital elevation model and topographic map (using Google Earth as one of its targets). We are also seeking to develop new tools for terrain modelling/visualisation.”

See previous entry: Mapping Middle-earth.

Indiana University to Close Map Library?

Indiana University is proposing to close four of its libraries, the Indiana Daily Student, its student newspaper, reports, and one of them is their map library:

Heiko Muehr, the branch coordinator of the Map and Geography library, said that he was surprised by the proposal because the library is “a very efficient operation.” He said it’s also convenient because it’s located in the Student Building and serves both geography and anthropology students and faculty, as well as several local residents.
“It is the IU library closest to downtown Bloomington and we get more use from Indiana residents than other IU libraries do,” Muehr said. “(We get) farmers looking for plat books, genealogists, historic preservation professionals using our historic Sanborn maps, fishermen looking at Indiana lake maps, you name it.”

Apparently, circulation figures determined which libraries ought to be closed — problematic in reference libraries where materials may not be signed out. (Imagine an overdue Sanborn map.)

Todd Lindley, a grad student in the Department of Geography, said that if records show that the facility is not used as much as others, it’s because the library works differently than others. Students frequently work in the library and do not check out resources. He said the facility is also valuable because of the reading lists it houses. He added that like all campus libraries, it serves as a delivery place for materials from other libraries, so students can request resources from other libraries without having to hike around campus to find the book they want.
“As a graduate student in the geography department, I make use of the geography library nearly every single day,” Lindley said. “Removing the map library — and hence, the maps — will eradicate a very valuable teaching resource from our department and campus. For geographers, removing the map library from the building is like removing a projector from an electronic classroom.”

Via MapHist. See also mapz: a gis librarian’s take.

Ask.com Relief Maps

I didn’t pay much attention when Ask.com unveiled its own mapping service a little while back, but now they’ve done something that no other online mapping service has done yet: they’ve added a relief map layer.

It only works on the higher zoom layers, and it doesn’t work with Safari (which gets a different mapping engine), but you have to admit, it’s both neat and unique. (You can also toggle the label layer on and off, so you can have roads and cities as well; I turned it off for this screen capture.)

More: All Points Blog; Anything Geospatial; Search Engine Watch.

Meanwhile, Edward notes that the Ask.com relief maps have a significant flaw — one that the Dutch would certainly notice: any land below sea level is shown as being underwater.

OpenStreetMap to Map Isle of Wight

Via Boing Boing, news that the OpenStreetMap project will attempt to map the entire Isle of Wight this coming weekend. OpenStreetMap’s goal is to produce freely available, copyright-free mapping data for Britain. Unlike the U.S., where government information is public domain, in the U.K., mapping data collected by the Ordnance Survey is held under Crown Copyright; OpenStreetMap argues that the fees the Ordnance Survey collects are excessive, and that public data should be free in any event.

See previous entries: OpenStreetMap London Poster as Fundraiser; OpenStreetMap; London Free Map.

1520+ Hometowns

Tofu’s “1520+ Hometowns” is a collage of all the town names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, cut from road maps: “In March of 2004 I began a map piece cutting out the hometown of each American serviceman and woman killed in Iraq. … In some cases the towns were so small that I had to search many maps and atlases to find them. One of the disturbing by products of this work are [sic] the maps of various states with many rectangular pieces missing where I cut out towns.” Via Kottke’s remaindered links.

The University of Tulsa’s Hidden Maps

A University of Tulsa graduate student has stumbled across rare maps in the university library’s collection, including an 1822 map of North America by Henry S. Tanner, the Tulsa World reports. It turns out that incoming maps and other non-book artifacts had never been catalogued. Now he and a librarian are worried that the maps’ value may render them inaccessible: “If it is millions, a far-off insurance company would dictate a vault, perhaps, and white gloves for handling. Or worse, no touching at all. … Why have maps that tell stories if no one can pull them out and decipher them?” Or, conversely, steal them: better check for razor blades, folks.

A Look at the Aerial Photography Business

A rising tide lifts all boats, it’s said, and the interest in the satellite and aerial imagery available through the online mapping services and Google Earth has been very good to the aerial photography industry, who are able to capitalize in at least three ways: selling additional imagery layers to end-users who can import them into Google Earth; selling the imagery to the online mapping services; and being able to offer something more recent and in greater detail than what the online maps offer. This feature article from the Scottsdale Times makes that very point, with a profile of Arizona aerial photography companies. Thanks to Bill Landis, who is quoted extensively in the article (his company is featured), for the link.

Maps from the Sumida Maritime Materials Collection

A collection of 20 maps, dating from the 17th to 19th centuries, from the Sumida Maritime Materials Collection. National and local maps of Japan, a map of Korea, a world map dating from 1699, and several miscellaneous maps make appearances. Java, JPEG and FlashPix formats. The text is mostly Japanese. Thanks again to peacay.

See previous entries: National Archives of Japan Map Collection; More Old Japanese Maps; Japanese Historical Maps.

Minnesota Maps Online

Digitized antique maps from the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection, which numbers 19,000 maps and 2,000 volumes. The online sample is likely much smaller than that, but nevertheless includes a number of land survey maps, plat books (?) and atlases from the 19th century. Via Plep.

Map Tattoos

On new mapping blog atlas(t), Claire Light has a neat post about map tattoos:

Unfortunately, subsequent repeated google searches didn’t turn up any other map tattoos, treasure or otherwise. What they did turn up were:
1) instances of people using map tattoos as plot furtherers in movies and prose fiction
2) a lot of claims of map tattoos on discussion boards, but with no photos
3) instructions on how to get to the next level of a computer game
4) a dream of discovering a map tattoo on one’s abdomen
What does this say about us, that we use tattoos of maps in fiction, that we dream of being tattooed by maps, that we claim tattoos of maps in discussions of self and identity. There’s something here about personalizing something by having it imprinted on your body permanently; and there’s something here about mapping as control — or being controlled.

See previous entry: Insert Joke Here.