Alejandro Polanco’s latest Kickstarter, Geography 1880, is in the vein of some of his previous ones: restoring and reprinting works from the late 19th century. This time he’s looking to create an anthology of maps from family and school atlases of the era.
The idea is to give shape to a new atlas that brings together maps forgotten in time that were once enjoyed again and again, by the light of a fire or gas lamps, from the great era of family atlases. To this end, I am undertaking a process of scanning the atlases of the period between 1860 and 1900 that I have in my library. Alongside this material, the book includes maps from various map libraries around the world (from USA, Spain, UK and Germany), with the corresponding attribution. All this forms an atlas full of authentic 19th century works of art that I hope will spark the imagination of my backers just as it was in the 1880s. Alongside the maps and illustrations of the period, my descriptive commentaries include details of the graphic styles, cartographers and geographical curiosities that appear on each page.
Hardcover, softcover and PDF versions will be produced, the hardcover in a 100-copy limited edition that has already been spoken for.
Sometimes a terrible old movie is only watchable when you add an audio track in which it’s being brutally and relentlessly mocked: this was the MO of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax, the latter featuring plenty of MST3K alumni. Such is the case with this 1949 educational film, late 1949, “What Is a Map,” which takes an awfully long time to (a) well, do much of anything and (b) get to the subject of maps, so RiffTrax’s version makes it a bit easier to stomach. A bit.
(Based on the presence of NASA tracking sites on the globe, Ken thinks this particular unit was meant for the Apollo-Soyuz program, but I kind of wonder whether that was a function of the 1967 Rescue Agreement between the U.S. and the USSR instead.)
Though maps have historically covered large areas, with crewed lunar missions on the horizon and other missions across the solar system in the planning stages, large-scale, small-area maps are starting to steal the limelight. These large-scale, small-area maps provide highly detailed views of the surface and allow scientists to investigate complex geologic relationships both on and beneath the surface. These types of maps are useful for both planning for and then conducting landed missions.
The Ebstorf Map, a 13th-century mappa mundi, was destroyed by bombing during World War II; it survives only as black-and-white photographs and colour facsimiles of the original. Those images were used by the Leuphana Universität Lüneburg to create a digital version in 2008. And now that digital version has been used to create an interactive version of the Ebstorf Map using a video game engine. The British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts blog has the details.
The British Library has collaborated with Escape Studios’ School of Interactive and Real Time to create an interactive version of the Ebstorf map. A team of students and graduates participated in the ‘Escape Pod’ incubator to create a 3D version of the map, using the digital facsimile created by Leuphana Universität Lüneburg.
The interactive map, created in Unreal Engine, has been set in a fictional medieval scriptorium to suggest the tone of the space in which it was created. All aspects of the room were imagined, researched and created by the students at Escape.
It sounds like overkill, albeit a fun kind of overkill. It’s a free download, but requires a PC with a graphics card (i.e., no integrated graphics) running Windows 10, so I can’t try it out. But if you can, and want to, you can download it here.
A couple of links regarding the Overture Map Foundation announcement (previously) afford some context and background. James Killick chalks up the decision to launch Overture to a combination of needs to control costs and maintain control while ensuring interoperability: “the reasons for the birth of OMF seem to be valid and defensible.” Meanwhile, the Geomob Podcast interviews geospatial veteran Marc Prioleau, in which (among other things) Marc observes that the companies behind Overture (including Meta, where he’s currently at) and OpenStreetMap are not on the same page: OSM’s focus does not serve the companies’ needs, and changing that focus would harm the OSM community. (Since “why not just use OpenStreetMap?” is a recurring question.)
It’s like the #30daymapchallenge in November, in which mapmakers are challenged to make a map a day on a given daily theme, only the reverse: the MapFailbruaryChallenge is about making a bad map on a given daily theme. “The idea is to create the worst map possible.” Bad maps happen; will a deliberately bad map be better or worse? Either way, it’s probably worth stocking up on popcorn for when maps with the #mapfailbruarychallenge hashtag start showing up on our timelines.
(Failbruary. Fai-EL-bru-AIR-y. Say that ten times. And resign yourselves to the fact that Reddit is probably going to kick everyone’s ass on this.)
Opening today at the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Map Center, Building Blocks: Boston Stories from Urban Atlases is an exhibition that explores street-level changes to Boston in the period between the Civil War and World War II. Media release.
Building Blocks: Boston Stories from Urban Atlases features rare materials from the BPL’s historic collection of maps and atlases alongside lithographs, photographs, and sketches of familiar local landscapes. Visitors will discover how the atlas collections opens up a world of fascinating stories, with vignettes including the city’s first African Meeting House in the heart of Beacon Hill, landmarks of leisure like the “Derby Racer” and “Giant Safety Thriller” amusement rides in Revere, public health infrastructure on Gallops Island in Boston Harbor, and many more.
The in-person exhibition at the BPL’s Central Library opens today; a digital version will follow online. Runs until 19 August 2023. A curatorial introduction will take place next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a permanent exhibition, Becoming Boston: Eight Moments in the Geography of a Changing City, also opens today at the Leventhal: “In the eight cases of this exhibition, we follow the changing spatial forms of the place we now call Boston—from before the landscape carried that name all the way through the struggles, clashes, and dreams that continue to reshape the city today.”
Announced earlier this month, the Overture Map Foundation is an initiative founded by Amazon Web Services (AWS), Meta (i.e. Facebook), Microsoft and TomTom to build an ecosystem of interoperable open map data—an ecosystem, note, that does not at the moment include Apple, Esri or Google, so presumably this is a way for smaller owners of map data (at least for TomTom values of smaller) to form Voltron punch above their weight by making it easier to combine and share resources. From the press release:
Multiple datasets reference the same real-world entities using their own conventions and vocabulary, which can make them difficult to combine. Map data is vulnerable to errors and inconsistencies. Open map data can also lack the structure needed to easily build commercial map products and services on top.