Whither the BCS?

If you’re going to rant, do it at length. Kenneth Field takes 16,000 words to lay out his concerns about the British Cartographic Society.

BCS is failing. Let’s ask the hard questions that need asking and make the Society actually mean and offer something going forward for UK cartography … or reconsider the very purpose of the society and seek an alternative. I’d like to see profound change in what is offered; a society that makes me want to belong and which is the place I go to for my daily cartographic shot. I want to go beyond the scant reward of a re-branded society who think newly monogrammed pencils, pens and rulers will keep me interested. At the moment I see an error-strewn and content-less web site, a late Journal which is getting thinner, a conference that is costly and not particularly interesting and a rhetoric that says everything is rosy and dynamic. It really isn’t.

My fundamental pitch is that I’m convinced BCS is on its last legs. We (as in the community of cartographers and map-makers) should look towards forming a new society. The best approach in my mind is one that merges BCS with the other cartography society—the Society of Cartographers. BCS and SoC need to get round the table, cast aside personality and work towards a solution for the betterment of cartography as a whole. Form a brand new society that brings everyone together and starts afresh with a blank piece of paper rather than everyone’s well-worn prejudices. Deal pragmatically with the contested issues. Cartography has changed so much that the question has to be asked why shouldn’t the professional organisations that are clinging to some desire for relevance just disband, reform and go again?

It’s a mix of institutional critique and airing of personal grievances. I’m not a BCS member, nor can I assess the veracity of Field’s claims (the BCS itself has a rather formal rebuttal here). But what he describes—too many committees (especially for society with only around 700 members), too much dysfunctional ossification (the Iron Law of Institutions may also be applicable here)—is rather common, even endemic, in organizations. But I’ve also seen organizations reinvent themselves and be the stronger for it.

(Field’s work has been featured here previously: Kenneth Field’s Map of MarsGreen MarsEnd of the Line: A Tube Map of Tube Maps.)

Free Workshop on How to Value Antique Maps

The Fry-Jefferson Map Society is hosting a free workshop on how to value antique maps. It takes place at the Library of Virginia in Richmond on Saturday, 5 November 2016 and is led by Eliane Dotson, co-owner of Old World Auctions. I’d attend this if I could; I used to get a lot of questions from readers asking how much their maps were worth, enough that I had to add it to the FAQ, so I’d love to know a little about it. [WMS]

Exhibitions, Events, Meetings and Societies

Every so often I think about creating directories of map societies or a calendar of upcoming events. That way lies madness, especially since I’d be reinventing the wheel. John Docktor already maintains calendars of exhibitions and meetings and events; sure, I’d like them to be machine-readable (i.e., have the ability to add events to your phone’s calendar), but he’s the one doing the work, so I’ll shut up now. As for map societies, Tony Campbell lists the international societies, while James Speed Hensinger maintains indexes of the local map societies.

There may be other resources out there along these lines; let me know about them and I’ll post them.

And Now Some Map News from Denver

The Denver Post has a piece that is simultaneously a profile of Christopher Lane, proprietor of the Denver-based Philadelphia Print Shop West (which sells its share of antique maps) and a look at the Rocky Mountain Map Society’s upcoming Map Month. Its theme, “Illusions, Delusions & Confusions,” will be explored by a series of lectures at the Denver Public Library running from 2 May to 9 June and two concurrent exhibitions on myths in maps at Denver’s Central Library and at the Map Library of the University of Colorado Boulder: brochure, program (PDF). [via]