Tuesday, 7 April 2015

BCS President's Bulletin March 2015

This year sees the 200th Anniversary of William Smith’s first Geological Map of England, Wales and part of Scotland, an event that was launched at the London headquarters of the Geological Society on March 23rd and attended by Sir David Attenborough. Known as ‘Strata Smith’ and ‘the Father of Geology’, Smith’s map is one of those truly iconic items in cartography. It is a ‘First’ that has set the standard for what has followed over the subsequent 200 years. A work of beauty, as well as being ground-breaking in the field of geology, the map has very much survived the test of time and has now been given a very modern twist on its own William Smith Bicentennial website www.strata-smith.com, where you can view an interactive 3D model that combines Smith’s original cartography with both modern cartography and technology. His accuracy, given the rudimentary tools of the day, takes your breath away. As Sir David mentioned, "Thinking in three dimensions is a remarkable ability. I know because I haven't got it."

This year also sees the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt as well as several centenary commemorations for battles of the First World War. The Historical Military Mapping Group of the BCS is heading across the Channel in April to visit Amiens and some of the venues in northern France that still evoke so many memories. Over 30 people have signed up and convener John Peaty is still looking for help in running this Special Interest Group.

The selection of papers and workshops for the BCS Symposium in York has now been made and the programme will be published shortly, with details available on the BCS website. We had a very good level of submissions this year covering a wide range of topics and hopefully there will be something of interest for everyone. As this is the March bulletin and the last one before the Awards close here is one final reminder that the usual BCS Awards close at the end of April and if you are planning on submitting an entry then time is running out. Full details of the Awards and how to enter for them are on the website, http://www.cartography.org.uk/default.asp?contentID=579. Now why did I say “usual”? If you have been following our twitter feeds, especially @Mappooch, the Awards Officer, you will already have spotted that we will be presenting a one-off Award this year sponsored by Google. The UK General Election is one of the most mapped events in the political calendar and with what promises to be a very closely contested and complicated election, just how well will these maps convey the final outcome? Well, now is your chance to impress the judges by producing a map of the General Election Result. Whilst paper maps are eligible for submission, preference will be given to online mapping with an emphasis on clarity and accuracy, with a deadline for submission of 30th June. Full details may be found in the Awards section on the website.

Cartography on the Internet

There have been several articles in the press recently about driverless cars, with most correspondents expressing concerns over safety on the road. One major implication of this technology was highlighted in a recent article in The Washington Post, the fact that the navigation systems for these cars will have to be much more accurate than those on current sat navs. The maps that appear on smart phones and sat navs are designed in part to replicate their paper equivalent and give the driver an easily recognisable symbolic representation of the real world. When the driver has been taken out of the equation to a large extent, and the car is doing the navigating as well as the driving, then directions and distances will be need to be much more accurate. Complex junctions will need to be mapped in far greater deal in order that we don’t have carnage on the roads. The technology of driverless cars for the mass market is still some way off but the mapping world will need to keep pace if it does become a reality http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/03/09/what-maps-will-look-like-when-we-need-cars-to-read-them/.

The New London Architecture (NLA) galleries at The Building Centre in Store Street, London is going to be worth a visit at some point in the future to see the 3D Map of London that has been commissioned by New London Architecture and sponsored by OS. A combination of OS data and 3D modelling of the London skyline has created an interactive experience involving projection systems, son et lumière displays, and one touch, tablet technology that will bring London’s development story to life. Anything that can be mapped or animated can be overlaid onto the physical model – ranging from underground lines, geographic areas or features, historic growth and boundaries, to people movements and clusters of buildings http://ow.ly/K8AhV.

When we compare the relative size of items we try to use easily recognizable base measures. So ‘five times the size of a football pitch’ is something that most people, especially football fans will be able to relate to. For some reason, when it come to countries the comparison ‘x times the size of Wales’ is often used, although I must admit that my mental map of the precise size of Wales is not that well developed. Another way of comparing relative sizes is to make a composite and this has been used successfully to show just how big Africa is, by how many other countries can fit inside its outline. A new take on this is US States and their equivalent Country by area, a simple but very effective illustration
http://twitter.com/BSB Humanities/status/575911491716661249/photo/1.

Size comparisons ‘off planet’ are even more intriguing and comprise some of the examples in ‘40 maps that explain outer space’ by Joseph Stromberg. It is a mix of maps and infographics that illustrate very clearly the huge distances we sometimes fail to get to grips with and the fact that the Earth is a very small element of our solar system. I particularly like number 25 in the series and number 40 made me stop and think http://egu.eu/5QMXP0.

Place names can be fraught with issues for the map maker especially in areas of contested territory where to use one form of name implies legitimacy for a particular claimant. But there is also the lighter side and the example that was recently featured shows a sense of humour and, as the article says, ‘a typically passive-aggressive Canadian way of giving someone the finger’. I also heard on the radio at the weekend that the England football starting 11 against Italy last week all had a town that is the same as their surname in the US. http://io9.com/the-historical-snub-hidden-in-canadas-map-1691972438.

A 400 year old tapestry map of Worcestershire is being prepared for display at the new Weston Library in Oxford. The University of Oxford's Weston Library opened on 21st March as a new model for research libraries worldwide and the public showcase for Bodleian treasures. The map was made in the 1590s for a landowner called Ralph Sheldon, whose own grand house at Weston, near Long Compton, bristling with towers and Tudor chimneys, is represented as the size of a small town. It has been in the Bodleian, part of one of the largest map collections in the world, since it was bequeathed in 1809 with a companion map of Oxfordshire to keep it company.
The Bodleian has been desperately short of space since it opened its doors in 1602, and never had a wall big enough to display the map. It therefore spent a century in store in Oxford, and then another century in borrowed storage space at the V&A in London. Now it finally gets to see the light of day again http://gu.com/p/46ztn.

Featured in Maplines a little while ago, Bellerby Globemakers has now made the next step up to the Mail Online and BBC’s The One Show. As a bowling alley boss I guess there is some similarity between the bowling balls and globes, but it was a big leap for Peter Bellerby moving from managing a bowling alley to starting his own globe company. Based in Stoke Newington and using similar technology to Formula 1 for some elements, the business produces hand-crafted globes that sell around the world. However, Bellerby's maps are alterations of other cartographers' works for the entrepreneur says he simply has neither the staff nor the time to run a cartography business too, but the decorations on his globes have made them highly desirable http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2461456/Bellerby--Co-globemakers-Amazing-hand-globes-worth-59-000-Britain.html. You can also follow them on Twitter @globemakers.

Special Interest Groups

The longest standing of our Special Interest Groups and frequently holding the most well attended events is the Map Curators’ Group or MCG as it is generally known. The Group is for librarians, curators, map historians and map collectors. A newsletter, Cartographiti, is issued up to 4 times a year; an annual workshop and specialist visit is arranged in September to run alongside the main BCS Symposium. Despite the reduction in the number of University map libraries the group remains very relevant in today’s digital age and has held workshops on topics that cover the whole range of library holdings, how to look after collections and what the implications of the digital age are for map libraries and collections. The convener is Ann Sutherland who was granted Honorary Fellowship of the Society in recognition of her huge contribution as Convener of the group for longer than I have been a member of BCS. A biennial event is The Helen Wallis lecture, delivered as part of the BCS symposium.

And finally

Chris Durso of Foodiggity has started a project with his son entitled ‘The Foodnited States of America’, a photo series recreating every single U.S. State out of food. http://news.distractify.com/pinar/foodnited-states-of-america/ As I lived there for a while I can really understand Pretzelvania.

 Pete Jones MBE FBCart.S CGeog

6th April 2015

E-mail: peter.jones991@mod.uk

Twitter: @geomapnut

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