During the 19th century, the United States expanded dramatically westward. Immigrant settlers rapidly spread across the continent and transformed it, often through violent or deceptive means, from ancestral Native lands and borderlands teeming with diverse communities to landscapes that fueled the rise of industrialized cities. Historical maps, images and related objects tell the story of the sweeping changes made to the physical, cultural, and political landscape. Moving beyond the mythologized American frontier, this map exhibition explores the complexity of factors that shaped our country over the century.
As usual, there’s a comprehensive online version, which is peppered with acknowledgements of the very white, very settler-colonialist perspective of the maps on display. Which are, of course, justified, but as far as I can see they’re asterisks and asides on an otherwise unchanged exhibit.
The Washington Post maps disasters in the United States, with a page that shows maps of flood warnings, tornadoes and hurricanes, extreme heat and cold (see above), wildfires, lightning, and earthquakes and volcanoes. In the wake of a natural disaster there’s usually someone suggesting that the victims are at fault for living in a disaster zone. The WaPost’s maps have an answer to that: “It turns out there is nowhere in the United States that is particularly insulated from everything.”
The New York Times maps confirmed measles cases in the United States as of April 29, 2019. “Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 but the highly contagious disease has returned in recent years in communities with low vaccination rates. The number of cases reported this year is already nearly double last year’s count and has surpassed the previous post-elimination high of 667 cases in 2014.”
The Atlantic maps political polarization in America. “The result was surprising in several ways. First, while virtually all Americans have been exposed to hyper-partisan politicians, social-media echo chambers, and clickbait headlines, we found significant variations in Americans’ political ill will from place to place, regardless of party.” Includes an interactive map with county-level data based on polling and analytics.
The print edition of today’s Washington Postmaps the fences and walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. The online version, which I seem to have missed when it was posted in October, offers a much more detailed look: it’s an interactive, scrollable map that offers a flyover view of the border, fenced and unfenced, as it passes through farms, ranches, towns and impossibly rugged terrain between the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.
A Fine and Fertile Country: How America Mapped Its Meals, an exhibition at the Harvard Map Collection, runs through 1 March 2019. “Harvard’s maps of American agriculture, ranging from the colonial period to current GIS data, demonstrate how food production has been a matter of concern ever since the first colonists arrived. The history of finding and farming food in the United States is a story of culture and convenience, capitalism and cattle drives. Academic arguments aside, once you see what the maps will show you, you might never look at apples and potatoes the same way.” No online version yet.
In April amateur cartographer Philip Kearney created “United States of Apathy,” a map that imagined the 2016 U.S. presidential election results if nonvoters were counted as a vote for “nobody,” in which case “nobody” would have won the electoral college by a landslide. Esri cartographer Jim Herries recently collaborated with Kearney on an interactive version that explores the phenomenon of apathetic voters in more depth. [CityLab]
Atlas Obscura looks at the cartographic work of early American educator Emma Willard, who in 1829 published a series of maps to accompany her History of United States, or Republic of America, a school textbook that came out the previous year. The book was an early example of a historical atlas: it was “the first book of its kind—the first atlas to present the evolution of America.”
There’s a lot of stuff relevant to our interests on the website of the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, and it’s hard to know what to begin with. One of the more recent projects, which CityLab saw fit to link to yesterday, is an interactive map showing elections to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1840 to 2016. It’s the kind of project that the user can get very, very lost in. In addition to the usual map of U.S. congressional districts, the site can also visualize the districts as a dot map to minimize the empty-land-doesn’t-vote problem (they call it a cartogram: it isn’t). There’s also a timeline showing the overall results over time at a glance; selecting a district gives shows how the district voted in past contests as a line graph. In other words: quite a lot of data, economically presented.
FiveThirtyEight looks at the polling data for the upcoming 2018 midterm elections and imagines the results for the U.S. House of Representatives if only women, men, nonwhite voters and white voters by education level voted. It’s a thought exercise they’ve indulged in before, with the presidential race in 2016, and it serves to indicate the demographic divide in voting intentions. (Cartographically, the maps suffer from the usual problem of U.S. election maps of congressional districts—large, sparsely populated districts in the middle of the country dominate the map.)
Carbon monoxide released into the atmosphere by the California wildfires is drifting across North America in concentrations sufficient to turn up on the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. A series of maps showing CO concentrations in the United States between 30 July and 7 August, using AIRS data, have been combined into the animation above.
Bloomberg explores land use in the United States with a series of low-resolution maps that become more and more like infographics in the shape of the lower 48 states. It’s a revealing look at the big picture, with some surprises: 41 percent of U.S. land is used to feed livestock.
This is a map of the United States without insets. Published in 1975 by the U.S. Geological Survey, it shows Alaska, Hawaii and the lower 48 states in the same, continuous view—though Hawaii’s Leeward Islands are cut off (as are the various territories). Can’t have everything, I guess. It’s available from the USGS as a free downloadable PDF; the paper version costs $9. [MapPorn]