The Economist looks at the history of the Ordnance Survey in an interactive feature that shows the progress of the first 19th-century maps across Great Britain. Of course the definitive history of the Survey’s first century, as the Economist article readily allows, is Rachel Hewitt’s Map of a Nation (2010), which I reviewed here. [Maps Mania]
Ordnance Survey Soliciting Ideas for New Map Symbols
The Ordnance Survey is asking its users to propose new symbols for its paper and digital maps, the Sunday Times reports [paywalled; News+]. “The national mapping agency is suggesting a list of potential updates, such as cafés, dog-waste bins and bicycle repair shops, as well as annotations to alert wheelchair and pushchair users about paths that have stiles. It may also include defibrillators once there is a reliable register.” Symbols were last updated in 2015. The Times article quotes a number of people who point out that the OS map could stand more radical change: among other things, there are still no separate symbols for non-Christian places of worship. See also the Guardian’s coverage.
The Lake District in Lego
BBC News has the story of Jon Tordoff’s 100-square-foot scale model of the Lake District, which he built during lockdown out of LEGO pieces.
The Tellurometer, with a Girl to Help
To start off your weekend, here’s a 1961 clip from British Pathé depicting the surveying and mapmaking technologies of the era. [Massimo]
UKHO to Discontinue Paper Nautical Charts by 2026
The U.K. Hydrographic Office plans to withdraw its paper nautical charts from production by 2026, citing “a rapid decline in demand for paper charts” relative to their digital navigation products. Press release.
Previously: NOAA to Move Away from Paper Charts.
Historic England’s Aerial Photo Explorer
Historic England’s new Aerial Photo Explorer allows users access to an archive of some 400,000 digitized aerial photographs taken over the past century. From their announcement: “Aerial imagery provides a fascinating insight into the development and expansion of the nation’s urban centres and changes to the rural landscape. It can also reveal striking discoveries—such as ‘cropmarks’ showing hidden, archaeology beneath the surface.” I notice that it also includes aerial photos of World War II bomb damage.
Apple Maps Updates in Ireland, Japan and the U.K.
Justin O’Beirne reports that Apple is now testing its new maps for the United Kingdom and Ireland: the maps are available for a small subset of users. [AppleInsider, MacRumors]
Apple’s maps of Japan have also been updated—like the Look Around updates, this was probably originally intended to coincide with the Olympics—but O’Beirne concludes that the data comes from a third-party provider: the maps have even more detail than Apple’s U.S. maps in some cases, less detail in others.
Censorship and the Ordnance Survey
A blog post from the National Library of Wales explores how sensitive military and industrial sites were omitted from the published versions of Ordnance Survey maps.
The removal of military installations from OS maps was at its height in the 19th century and the World Wars, but throughout the Cold War and beyond, many sensitive sites were left off the maps entirely. It took the public availability of high-resolution satellite imagery at the turn of the 21st century to render this type of censorship largely ineffective, although labels are still omitted in some cases.
The Ordnance Survey did survey and map sensitive sites, but those maps were military-only. The differences between these military maps and the public maps make for a number of interesting comparisons: see the post for examples.
Rail Map Online
Rail Map Online has been around since 2013 or so, but it only came to my attention recently. It’s an interactive map of every rail line and station that has ever existed in Great Britain and Ireland, with U.S. rail lines in the pipeline. Keep in mind that it’s a hobby project: “The U.K. map is mostly finished, although there’s always room for improvement. The U.S. map is a work in progress, and will take many years to complete.” [Tim Dunn]
Map of Common Gaelic Placenames
Phil Taylor’s Map of Common Gaelic Placenames applies the Ordnance Survey’s guide to the Gaelic origin of place names and places them on early 20th-century OS maps of Scotland.
The University of Edinburgh’s online Witches map is the result of a data and visualization internship project—the intern cheekily referred to as the Witchfinder General—to put the data from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database on the map. Nearly four thousand people were accused of witchcraft in Scotland between 1563 and 1736; nearly 85 percent were women. The mapped data includes where the accused lived, where they were detained, where they were put on trial, and where they died, when that data is available. Story at The Scotsman.
Copyright and Cartography
Copyright and Cartography is a research project exploring the historical relationship between cartography and copyright law.
Throughout history, maps have been made and used in different ways and for different purposes. They can be seen as cultural artefacts, artworks, sacred objects and tools for wayfinding. Often their purposes are legal—they can be used to administer property regimes, resolve proprietary disputes or make territorial claims. But what about the laws that regulate the maps themselves, that decide who can own them or who can distribute them? This website explores these questions, juxtaposing images of maps with the legal documents intimately involved in their creation and circulation.
The project focuses on mapmakers in London, Edinburgh, Melbourne and Sydney, and seems to be in the early stages, with only a dozen cases, relating to infringement and other copyright disputes, listed.
This project is limited to cases in the U.K. and Australia. Back in 2000, J. B. Post compiled a list of cases of copyright litigation in the U.S. from 1789 to 1998: the page is no longer online but can be accessed via the Wayback Machine.
New Exhibition of Wartime Mapping Activities at Hughenden
Opening today at Hughenden Manor: a permanent exhibition on the secret wartime mapping activities that took place at the Buckinghamshire mansion during the Second World War.
In rooms never before opened to the public, the installation features original photographs, records and memories of personnel involved at the time.
In newly accessible spaces used by the mapmakers themselves, the interactive exhibits shed light on how Hillside played such a significant role in shaping the outcome of the war. […]
Codenamed ‘Hillside’, Hughenden played such a critical role supporting the pilots of nearby Bomber Command that it was on Hitler’s list of top targets.
Around 100 personnel were based here, drawing up the maps used for bombing missions during the war, including the ‘Dambusters’ raid and for targeting Hitler’s mountain retreat Eagle’s Nest. Skilled cartographers produced leading-edge maps from aerial photographs delivered by the RAF’s reconnaissance missions.
The BBC News story provides more detail: some 3,500 hand-drawn target maps were produced at Hughenden Manor during the War.
The London Medieval Murder Map
A project of Cambridge’s Violence Research Centre, the London Medieval Murder Map is an interactive map that plots 142 murders from the first half of the 14th century onto one of two maps of London: a 1572 map from Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum or a map of London circa 1270 published by the Historic Towns Trust in 1989. The interactive map is powered by Google Maps, but the Braun and Hogenberg is not georectified, so the pushpins shift as you toggle between the base maps. [Ars Technica]
Fake Britain: A Map of Fictional Locations
Londonist’s Fake Britain map: “We’ve put together a map of fictional locations from film, TV, literature and other sources. Take a look around this alternative nation and see how many places you recognise. From Judge Dredd to Vanity Fair, it’s all here.
“The vast majority of entries are well defined geographically. Some—such as Beanotown and Blackadder’s Dunny on the Wold—are a little more nebulous, but we’ve added them for fun. Hogwarts is an unmappable location (unless it’s a Marauder’s Map you’re looking at), but we’ve had a go anyway.”
They’re looking for additions and corrections to the map: this is a work in progress. [Scarfolk]
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