In February 2019 a conference on the blurred line between factual and fictitious mapping in history, Mapping the Global Imaginary, 1500-1900, took place at Stanford University’s David Rumsey Map Center. Which I somehow missed. But no worries: videos of the conference panels are available online (see above for the first one), as is the talk by the keynote speaker, Sumathi Ramaswamy.
“The Monsters of Maps,” a 10-minute video by Richard Tilney-Bassett, explores the late-19th- and early-20th-century phenomenon of “serio-comic” or caricature maps, which are no stranger to us here. In the video Richard wonders what a modern-day caricature map would look like; I’d point him to the work of Andy Davey (see here and here).
As I’ve said before, the subject of empty spaces on maps is of considerable interest to my own research on fantasy maps: fantasy maps tend to be full of empty spaces not germane to the story, whereas real-world maps were covered in cartouches, sea monsters, and ribbons of text. As a result I’m very interested in what Van Duzer has to say about the subject, and have been looking for something exactly like this recorded talk for some time.
I wasn’t disappointed. Van Duzer lays out, with some particularly over the top examples, how empty spaces on maps were consumed (his term) by text, ships, sea monsters and other embellishments that were designed for that very purpose. Some of those embellishments were absolutely enormous, others curiously redundant: a single map does not need four identical scales or a dozen or more compass roses, for example. “Everything we’re seeing here was a choice on the part of the cartographer,” he says at one point; “all this information could be disposed differently.”
Previously: Horror Vacui: The Fear of Blank Spaces.
“Mapping a Better Tomorrow” is a 30-minute film produced in 1971 to explain the work of the U.S. Army Topographic Command (TOPOCOM). After explaining maps from first principles, it covers the state of the art in terms of cartography, computer mapping, photogrammetry and surveying circa 1971, including the production of topographic maps, maps of the Moon and maps of, erm, southeast Asia. Since U.S. government publications are public domain, it’s available in several locations, including the Internet Archive (above), DailyMotion and Vimeo.
TOPOCOM itself had a short history. Created in 1968 (PDF) as the successor to the U.S. Army Map Service, it lasted less than four years before being merged into the Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) in 1972. Which in turn was merged into the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) in 1996. Which in turn was renamed the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in 2003.
This timelapse video showing 10 years of weather radar over the course of two hours is built from NEXRAD mosaic data at the Iowa Environmental Mesonet site. To be honest they could have gone even further back: the archived data for the U.S. goes back as far as 1995. But then you’d have a five-hour video, and who’d watch that? [Kottke]
After a hiatus of more than two and a half years, Jay Foreman and Mark Cooper-Jones are back to producing new episodes of Map Men. Back in 2016 I called the series “two silly people being very smart about often-silly cartographical situations” (though I may have gotten that backward). Anyway, they’re back, with episodes on the geological origins of the English-Scottish border and trap streets.
Edney, who’s Osher Professor in the History of Cartography at the University of Southern Maine and the director of the History of Cartography Project (his name’s come up before), also has a new book coming out next year: Cartography: The Ideal and Its History (University of Chicago Press) is apparently an argument about how problematic cartography as an all-encompassing concept is, which ought to make for an interesting read.
Developmental topographic disorientation is a neurological disorder that prevents people from making cognitive maps. People suffering from DTD literally get lost in familiar surroundings: their home, to and from work. As someone who literally cannot get lost, I have a hard time imagining what that could possibly be like. Enter The Woman Who Gets Lost Every Day, a short film about Sharon Roseman, a woman with DTD who shares how she experiences and navigates the world in her own words. [The Atlantic]
Here’s a short video from the British Museum about a 13th-century celestial globe; it goes into the history of the globe, who made it, and how the stars appear on it (i.e. if the sky is represented as a globe, we’re on the inside: how do the stars appear on that globe?).
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.
Last week, Jimmy Kimmel Live had a skit where they asked passersby to name a country, any country, on a map of the world. The results were predictable—doofs who couldn’t name any country at all, or who thought Africa was a country—and so has been the general reaction. Americans not knowing their geography is a cliché that’s decades old at least. Thing is, the half-dozen or so people being shown aren’t a representative sample: the aim here isn’t a scientific survey, it’s good television. And laughing at idiots counts as good TV in America. In that vein, the kid going all Yakko’s World at the end is an absolutely necessary punchline. [Cartophilia]
PBS NewsHour talks to Edward Brooke-Hitching about his book The Phantom Atlas, his book about lost islands, invented places, myths and mistakes on old maps. Direct video link, transcript. The Phantom Atlas was published in the U.K. in late 2016 and saw its U.S. edition launch in April of this year. [WMS]
Frustrated by being left off world maps, New Zealand has launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign called #getNZonthemap, the highlight of which is a three-minute video featuring New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and actor Rhys Darby, who goes full conspiracy theory in the clip. Fun all round. See the video on Facebook or Vimeo.
Previously: Maps Without New Zealand.