The David Rumsey Collection

I’ve known about the exciting David Rumsey Historical Map Collection for more than a decade, and have used it from time to time as a resource for research. The physical collection has more than 150,000 maps, mostly of North and South America, but also the rest of the world. About two thirds of the collection have been digitized and with this database are easily searchable.
The technology used includes LUNA software (by Luna Imaging in L.A.) for creation and processing, and Georeferencer software from the Swiss company Klokan Technologies. With this software, the transparency of the historical map can be adjusted to see the google-maps layer below. Fascinating!

Who Owns the North Pole

Just watched a wonderful BBC documentary series, “Mapping the World“, which focuses on the use of maps throughout history for national power.  The last segment focuses on the current amazing new competition to claim the rapidly melting arctic region because of its enormous oil and gas reserves.  This has been in the news for some time, especially since the Russians planted a titanium flag on the sea floor directly below the North Pole in August 2007.  This map was designed by cartographers at Durham University, updated in 2010 to include negotiated boundaries between Norway and Russia, in attempt to make agreements before the free-for-all which could result from competing national interests as the area is explored.

Africa – Bigger Than You Think

Just came across a graphic produced in November 2010 by Kai Krause which shows Africa swallowing up many countries and even continents which we typically think of as larger, including the US, China, and Europe. Mr. Krause points out that the great misconception has been propogated by the standard use of the Mercator Projection which was created by Mercator in 1569 to represent the world in such a way as to keep make it easier to navigate from one place to another because it flattens the earth and turns it into a rectangle. Therefore the areas of countries closer to the poles are exaggerated, while those closer to the equator are understated.
As was pointed out by The Economist, the actual graphic used by Mr. Krause is not a perfect representation of the proportions. For a more accurate representation, the writer used the Gall’s Stereographic projection (which I used to use at Johnson Controls!) which is an “equal area” projection designed to keep countries areas in proportion. The conclusion is the same, maybe a little less dramatic, but another nice graphic.

Crowdsourcing History

The New York Public Library’s Lionel Pincus Map Library has an amazing tool, The NYPL Map Warper, which allows and encourages the public to help geo-rectify their collection of historical maps. Over 2200 maps have been rectified to date.

The tool is a customized version of an open source map warping/rectifying tool (MapWarper) created by Tim Waters and MIT licensed, so available to developers. On the Mapwarper site, you can upload your own scanned maps and use the tool to rectify and export! The base map is Open Source, but after exporting, a map could be layered onto Google Maps or anything else.

The UK, etc., Explained

This is a great little animation: “The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England Explained“… plus a lot more explaining about the old British Empire, and “the Crown”. The guy (C.G.P.Grey) sure talks fast, but thank goodness you can replay it if you are motivated! This is the kind of information you sometimes wonder about but never get around to looking up. His source is Wikipedia, so hope they’ve got it right! Found this video via NACIS (North American Cartographic Society). In case you can’t take the monologue, he published the script on his blog.

Mapping on This American Life

This episode of This American Life is almost 13 years old, long before “MyMaps”. The theme of the episode is “Mapping” and there are five parts, one for each of the five senses. Part one, Sight, is an interview with Denis Wood a thought-provoking discussion about why maps are only meaningful because they do NOT show everything.  Being “selective” is the key to making a any map.  This is the only segment which is directly related to maps in the SweetMaps context. But the rest is pure fun:
Hearing — the sound of ordinary home and office background noises and how they can drive you nuts.  Smell — an attempt to understand (or map) the functioning of the Nose, and to construct a commercially-available electronic nose, including a replacement for canine drug-sniffers.  Touch — a woman obsessively maps her body, fearing cancer.  Taste — one man’s description of tastes on in the neighborhood of Pico Boulevard in LA.  Classic Ira Glass.

Making Maps – Looks Good

The second edition to a “classic” for cartographers will soon be available. The authors are John Krygier, a geography prof at Ohio Weslyan and past-president of the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS), and the extraordinary mapmaker and designer, Denis Wood. Krygier has an interesting blog, now on my RSS list.

Update 3/9/2018: The Third Addition is now available.