Maps of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham at the Canadian War Museum

CBC Ottawa looks at four hand-drawn maps of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham of 1759, in which British forces captured the city of Québec. The maps are held in the vaults of the Canadian War Museum and are too delicate to put on display; I have not as yet been able to find online versions of these maps there or at Library and Archives Canada.

A Refugee Camp Mapped by Refugees

UNHCR

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]

See also “GIS for Refugees, by Refugees,” an article Tomaszewski wrote for the Summer 2017 issue of ArcNews.

JFK’s Cuban Missile Crisis Map Sells for Nearly $140,000

RR Auction

A map of potential Soviet targets in Cuba used by President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis has sold at auction for $138,798. Both buyer and seller were anonymous; the seller says the map had been given to them 20 years ago by former defense secretary Robert McNamara. CBS Boston, CNN, Fine Books and Collections. [Tony Campbell]

Mapping the Rohingya Refugee Camps

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.

Be advised: it’s a big, graphics-heavy page.

Previously: A Humanitarian Crisis, Observed from Orbit.

Indiana University Is Digitizing Its Collection of Russian Topo Maps

Indiana University’s collection of some 4,000 Russian military topographic maps is being digitized, thanks to a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.

“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.

More than 1,000 have already been digitized. These maps are similar to the maps chronicled by John Davies and Alex Kent in The Red Atlas (see my review), but date from before the Cold War. [Osher]

Confederate Maps at the U.S. National Archives

Map of the Battlefield of Shiloh; Tennessee; Confederate Maps, 1861-1876; War Department Collection of Confederate Records, 1825-1927, RG 109; NACP—Cartographic (RDSC).

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]

The Red Atlas

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.

Continue reading “The Red Atlas”

Mapping Canada’s War Dead

Over the past few years, Global News’s Patrick Cain has been producing interactive maps pinpointing the home addresses of Canada’s war dead. Most date from 2013. Toronto’s map covers both World Wars and Korea; Winnipeg’s and Vancouver’s cover World War I alone. This map covers D-Day casualties across the country. This map shows the next-of-kin addresses for Korean War casualties. [Canadian Geographers]

A Giant Map of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

McMaster University’s Daily News has a piece on a large-scale map of Vimy Ridge—a World War I battle fought by Canadian troops that has since entered the national folklore—that reproduced from McMaster’s extensive collection of trench maps. The map, created by Canadian Geographic and 17 × 13 feet in size, is currently on display in the foyer of the university’s Mills Library, but it’s been on tour for at least the past year: the Vimy Ridge map is one of several giant floor maps produced by Canadian Geographic’s education division; each can be booked for a three-week loan period. [WMS]

Book Review Roundup

Geographical magazine reviews The 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).

Meanwhile, Geographical also has a review of Alastair Bonnett’s latest book of geographical idiosyncraciesBeyond the Map, and All Over the Map takes a look at Andrew DeGraff’s book mapping movie plotlines, Cinemaps. Tor.com excerpts Cinemaps’s map of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Previously: New Map Books for October 2017; Alastair Bonnett’s Beyond the MapSoviet Spy Maps, Redux.

New Map Books for October 2017

It’s a busy month for map book publishing; so far I’m aware of eight map-related book (many of them scholarly monographs) seeing print in October.

  1. New Views: The World Mapped Like Never Before by Alastair Bonnett (Aurum Press, 26 October). Collects 50 “unique and beautiful” maps of our world. [Amazon]
  2. Mapping Naval Warfare: A Visual History of Conflict at Sea by Jeremy Black (Osprey, 24 October). Examines original maps of naval battles and explores how battles represented through mapping. [Amazon]
  3. The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World by John Davies and Alex Kent (University of Chicago Press, 17 October). A look at the Soviet Army’s detailed global topogramical mapmaking program. My blog post. [Amazon]
  4. Cinemaps: An Atlas of 35 Great Movies by Andrew DeGraff and A. D. Jameson (Quirk, 24 October). A follow-up to Plotted, this time DeGraff turns his unique cartographic hand to movies. [Amazon, iBooks]
  1. Remapping Modern Germany after National Socialism, 1945-1961 by Matthew D. Mingus (Syracuse University Press, 5 October). Academic study of how maps were used to reshape postwar German identity. [Amazon]
  2. Mapmaker: Philip Turnor in Rupert’s Land in the Age of Enlightenment by Barbara Mitchell (University of Regina Press, 7 October). Biography of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s first inland surveyor. [Amazon]
  3. Terrestrial Lessons: The Conquest of the World as Globe by Sumathi Ramaswarmy (University of Chicago Press, 3 Oct0ber). The history and impact of the globe in colonial India. [Amazon]
  4. A History of Canada in Ten Maps by Adam Shoalts (Allen Lane, 10 October). Despite the title, a popular history of Canada’s exploration rather than cartography. Look for my review next week. [Amazon, iBooks]

Related: Map Books of 2017.

A Humanitarian Crisis, Observed from Orbit

Earlier this month Human Rights Watch released satellite imagery of burning buildings in minority Rohingya villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine State—evidence, human rights observers say, of a government-led campaign against the Rohingya, four hundred thousand of whom have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. Amnesty International has collated on-the-ground and satellite evidence and has produced a map showing active fires in Rakhine State. The Washington Post’s coverage also features maps, before-and-after satellite images and infographics.

More on Escape Maps

Schaffhausen Airey Neave escape map. The War Office, 1940. British Library.
Schaffhausen Airey Neave escape map. The War Office, 1940. British Library.

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.

See also this article from the British Library, from last October. And in case you missed it, a book on the subject, Barbara Bond’s Great Escapes: The Story of MI9’s Second World War Escape and Evasion Maps (Times Books), came out last year.

Previously: Dress Made from Silk Escape Maps Sold; Three Books on WWII Maps; World War II Escape Maps.

Soviet Spy Maps, Redux

soviet-map-dc
Shamelessly nicked from Architect of the Capital.

That Soviet spies created detailed topographic maps of the world, including their Cold War enemies, is not news. Wired had a feature on the maps last year, and I’ve been aware of the work of John Davies and Alex Kent on the subject for more than a decade.

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 Capital and 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.

Finally, Davies and Kent have written a book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World, which, they say, will be coming from the University of Chicago Press in September 2017.

[Benjamin Hennig/MAPS-L/WMS]