Brian Tomaszewski writes about his project to train Syrian refugees in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan to map the camp. “They have intimate knowledge of the camp’s layout, understand where important resources are located and benefit most from camp maps.” Over 18 months his team trained 10 refugees basic concepts, field collection techniques, and how to map with mobile phones. “Within a relatively short amount of time, they were able to create professional maps that now serve camp management staff and refugees themselves.” His team is now working on obtaining GIS certifications for some of them. [Leventhal]
There are 671,000 Rohingya refugees living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The UN Refugee Agency has produced a story map, Rohingya Refugee Emergency at a Glance, that maps in detail the dire situation in those camps: overcrowding; risk of natural disaster (landslides, monsoon season); access to health services, food, clean water and sanitation.
Six months into the crisis, the priority in Bangladesh is to prevent an emergency within an emergency. The single greatest challenge to refugee protection is the physical environment of the settlements themselves, notably the congestion, access challenges due to a lack of roads and pathways, the high rates of water contamination and the significant risk of epidemics. These risks disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, notably children, pregnant women, single-headed households and people with disabilities. This already dire situation could further deteriorate during the upcoming monsoon season, as large parts of the refugee sites could be devastated by flash floods or landslides and become inaccessible.
“The world-changing differences documented by maps in the Eastern Bloc Borderlands project cannot be overstated,” says Michelle Dalmau, head of Digital Collections Services for IU Libraries, and the project’s principal investigator. “In some cases we see villages and settlements depicted that no longer exist.”
Created by the Russian Military from 1883 to 1947, the maps traveled widely through their tactical use in the field. In the years surrounding World War II, many were captured by opposing forces, including German and American troops. As a result, myriad stamps from institutions they passed through—such as the University of Berlin, the U.S. Army Map Service, and the CIA Map Library—mark the maps with a unique and visual history.
The Unwritten Record, a blog by staff at the U.S. National Archives’s Special Media Archives Services Division, announced last month: “Civil War maps are always popular at the National Archives, and the Cartographic Branch is pleased to announce the digitization of over 100 Confederate maps from Record Group (RG) 109. All are now available to view or download through our online catalog.” [Texas Map Society]
During the second half of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union’s military and civilian cartographers created topographical maps of the entire world of a very high standard of quality and accuracy. How they did so, and why, remains in large part a mystery, one that John Davies and Alexander J. Kent’s new book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World (University of Chicago Press, October) fails to solve completely.
The Red Atlas is not the definitive history of those Soviet mapping efforts because so much about those efforts remains a secret. The only reason we know about them is because, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, so many physical copies of those once-highly secret maps fell into the hands of map collectors. The Red Atlas talks about that: for more than a decade, Davies and Kent have been studying those maps. (I’ve been following their work. See the links at the bottom of this post for my earlier posts on the subject.) What they know about the Soviet mapping efforts—sources, methods, their reason for doing it—is extrapolated from the final product of those effort: the maps. The Red Atlas is above all else an exercise in cartographic forensics.
Geographical magazine reviewsThe Red Atlas, the survey of Soviet-era topo maps of the world by John Davies and Alexander J. Kent out this month from University of Chicago Press. National Geographic’s All Over the Map blog also has a feature on The Red Atlas. I’ve received my own review copy of The Red Atlas and hope to have a review for you … at some point (I’m rather backlogged).
I’ve known about escape maps—maps printed on silk to help prisoners of war escape Germany during the Second World War—for a while now, and have blogged about them before, but this Atlas Obscura piece on them taught me a few things I didn’t know, and is a fascinating read besides.
But for some unexplained reason interest in Soviet maps has had a bit of a resurgence lately. Elliot Carter writes about the Soviet maps of Washington, D.C., and their myriad little errors at Architect of the Capitaland Washingtonian magazine. No doubt they’ll come in handy with the new administration. And the deployment of the Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov through the English Channel in October gave rise to this short piece on Soviet maps of the U.K. The maps are also featured in the British Library’s current map exhibition: they’re the lede in this News.com.au article about the exhibition.