2021 Holiday Gift Guide

Every year at about this time—

(Actually no, check that, this year I’m late; and last year I didn’t post one at all except for this stationery guide.)

—I post a gift guide that lists some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published this year.

(Actually . . . this year not very many books were published. Thanks, pandemic. I’ve had to expand my scope a bit this year.)

If you have a map-obsessed person in your life and would like to give them something map-related—or you are a map-obsessed person and would like your broad hints to have something to link to—this guide may give you some ideas.

Please keep in mind that this is not a list of recommendations: what’s here is mainly what I’ve spotted online, and there’s probably a lot more out there. Also, I haven’t so much as seen most of what’s here, much less reviewed it: these are simply things that, based on what information I have available, seem fit for giving as gifts. (Anyone who tries to parlay this into “recommended by The Map Room” is going to get a very sad look from me.)

This post contains affiliate links; I receive a cut of the purchase price if you make a purchase via these links.

Enough with the caveats. Let’s go shopping!

1761 Map of Fort Detroit Acquired, Crowdfunding Campaign Launched

William Brasier’s “Plan of the Fort at De Troit,” (1761)
William Brasier, “Plan of the Fort at De Troit,” 1761. William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan.

A 1761 map of Fort Detroit that depicts the fort just after it was ceded by the French to British forces, commissioned by Gen. Amherst and hand-drawn by William Brasier, has been acquired by the University of Michigan’s William L. Clements Library.

The map had been in private hands since at least 1967. Because its $42,500 price tag put a substantial dent in the library’s acquisition budget, they’re crowdfunding the purchase—with $20,000 already pledged in matching funds. [Tony Campbell]

Previously: Early Map of Detroit Acquired.

Mapping Marine Microplastics

Maps of microplastics concentrations
NASA Earth Observatory (Joshua Stevens)

NASA Earth Observatory: “Researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) recently developed a new method to map the concentration of ocean microplastics around the world. The researchers used data from eight microsatellites that are part of the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission. Radio signals from GPS satellites reflect off the ocean surface, and CYGNSS satellites detect those reflections. Scientists then analyze the signals to measure the roughness of the ocean surface. These measurements provide scientists with a means to derive ocean wind speeds, which is useful for studying phenomena like hurricanes. It turns out that the signals also reveal the presence of plastic.”

Mapping Irrecoverable Carbon

From Noon, Goldstein, Ledezma et al., “Mapping the irrecoverable carbon in Earth’s ecosystems,” Nat Sustain (2021). Creative Commons licence.

A new study published in Nature Sustainability maps the Earth’s reserves of what is called “irrecoverable carbon”—that is to say, those stores of carbon in nature that, if released into the atmosphere, would not be able to be restored in the timeframe required to deal with climate change. These stores include wetlands and old-growth forests, which take longer to replenish.

Irrecoverable carbon represents 20% of the total manageable ecosystem carbon. Globally, 79.0 Gt (57%) of irrecoverable carbon is found in biomass while 60.0 Gt (43%) is in soils. […] The largest and highest-density irrecoverable carbon reserves are in the tropical forests and peatlands of the Amazon (31.5 Gt), the Congo Basin (8.2 Gt) and Insular Southeast Asia (13.1 Gt); the temperate rainforest of northwestern North America (5.0 Gt); the boreal peatlands and associated forests of eastern Canada and western Siberia (12.4 Gt); and mangroves and tidal wetlands globally (4.8 Gt).

The study argues that such reserves should be considered unexploitable; about 48 percent of it is already within protected or indigenous lands. About half the irrecoverable carbon sits on 3.3 percent of the world’s land area. [ScienceNews, GIS Lounge]

Returning Maps to Their Context

Interesting essay for the History of Cartography Project from Matthew Edney, on the practice of treating maps as separate from the books they were originally published in—and physically removing them from those books—and the damage that does, both to the physical objects and to our understanding of the past.

The key issue is that over many centuries, maps have routinely been removed from their original contexts without clear records being kept. These practices have been extensively countered and halted since the 1970s, however they have left a legacy that requires great effort to overcome. But that effort always pays off: resituating early maps in the original contexts of their production, circulation, and use inevitably allows for more new interpretations of their meaning and significance.

About California Movie Location Maps

In the above Twitter thread, and in a new article in Film History: An International Journal, Patrick Ellis looks at the several maps of California that portray it as being able to stand in for locations around the world. It’s more than just location scouting for film shoots (though it very much is that); it’s also about marketing for in-state tourism. (The article is paywalled.)

Secretary Haaland Takes Action Against Derogatory Place Names

We’ve seen efforts to replace racist and offensive place names in the past, but in general they’ve happened at the state or provincial level. But on Friday U.S. interior secretary Deb Haaland took action at the federal level. She issued two orders designed to speed up the replacement of derogatory place names, the process for which to date has been on a case-by-case, complaint-based basis. One order declares “squaw” to be an offensive term and directs the Board of Geographic Names to change place names on federal lands that use the term; the other establishes a federal advisory committee on derogatory geographic names.

Previously: Maine Reviews Registry Containing Racist Place Names; Racist Place Names in Quebec, Removed in 2015, Remain on Maps; Washington State Senator Seeks Removal of Offensive Place Names; Review: From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow.

Piri Reis Map Back on Display

The Piri Reis map is back on display at the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. Like the Tabula Peutingeriana, it’s only taken out for display at intervals to protect it from the elements. Discovered when the palace was being converted into a museum in the 1920s, the map is the western third of a portolan chart drawn on gazelle skin parchment in 1513 by Ottoman admiral Ahmet Muhiddin Piri (“Reis”—admiral—was his title). It was an expansive compilation of ancient and contemporary sources much like the Waldseemüller map, and is fascinating in its own right; in recent years, though, it became one of the “proofs” of a nutty theory involving ancient civilizations and polar shifting. [Tony Campbell]

Previously: The Piri Reis Map of 1513; A Turkish Piri Reis Documentary Is Coming.

Maps of the Pacific

Carte très curieuse de la Mer du Sud
Henri Abraham Chatelain, Carte très curieuse de la Mer du Sud, 1719. Map, 76.6 × 137.9 cm.

Maps of the Pacific is an exhibition of the State Library of New South Wales’s holdings of maps, charts atlases and globes relating to the Pacific Ocean. “This exhibition traces the European mapping of the Pacific across the centuries—an endeavour that elevated the science and art of European mapmaking. Redrawing the map of the world ultimately facilitated an era of brutal colonisation and dispossession for many Pacific First Nations communities.” Open now at the library’s exhibition galleries in Sydney, the exhibition runs until 24 April 2022. Free admission.

In related news, the library’s Mapping the Pacific conference (previously) has been postponed to March 2022.

Geography Awareness Week, GIS Day, and the 2020 U.S. Census

In raising-public-awareness news, the third week of November is Geography Awareness Week, and since 1999 the Wednesday of that week is GIS Day.

For this year’s GIS Day, the Library of Congress is holding a virtual event focusing on the 2020 Census, featuring a keynote by Census Bureau geography chief Deirdre Bishop as well as three technical papers. The program will be (or was, depending on when you read this) streamed on the Library of Congress’s website and on their YouTube channel on Wednesday, 17 November 2021 at 1 p.m. EST, and will be available for later viewing.

Max Schörm’s Modern Caricature Maps

Max Schörm has resurrected the art of caricature maps (maps where countries are made to look like people, animal or other objects; they were a regular feature of propaganda maps of the late 19th and early 20th centuries). For the past year and a half Max has been posting new maps three times a week to his Instagram account: the maps are of countries, but also continents, provinces, states, districts and cities; some of them are of countries’ historical boundaries (e.g. interwar Romania or Habsburg Hungary—or, going even further back, Pangaea) some of them (e.g. this pinwheel map of Myanmar) are even animated. There’s a lot of whimsy and pop-culture references that don’t always match up with the borders they’re filling out; these aren’t the “serio-comic” satirical maps of the pre-World War I era. Which is to say: they’re entertaining.

Previously: A ‘Serio-Comic Map’ for the Modern Age; Another Caricature Map of Modern Europe.

Thirty Day Map Challenge

The Thirty Day Map Challenge is taking place right now on Twitter: see the #30DayMapChallenge hashtag. For the second year in a row, mapmakers are challenged to make a map based on the day’s theme. (Today’s, for example, was to map with a new tool.) It’s open to everyone; for more information and resources see the challenge’s GitHub page. Here’s the page for the 2020 challenge, which saw 7,000 maps from 1,000 contributors.