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The Map Room

A weblog about maps

Last Build Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2017 23:32:32 +0000


Two Upcoming Exhibitions

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 23:32:32 +0000

California as an Island and Worlds That Never Were, an exhibition of maps from the Roy V. Boswell Collection for the History of Cartography at California State University at Fullerton. Runs from 22 January to 29 March at CSU Fullerton’s Pollak Library. News release. [WMS] Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State features maps spanning more … Continue reading "Two Upcoming Exhibitions"

Seymour Schwartz’s Hidden Passion

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 14:33:49 +0000

Seymour Schwartz is a familiar figure in the map world. A professor of surgery by day, he’s built a reputation as a map collector (and donor), historian and author (his books include The Mismapping of America and Putting “America” on the Map). On Thursday he’ll be appearing at the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, as one of the speakers … Continue reading "Seymour Schwartz’s Hidden Passion"

Gender Differences in Spatial Ability Are a Social Construct

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 13:46:58 +0000

A recent psychology paper challenges the notion that men are better than women at directions. When the same test was presented as a measure of spatial ability that women typically did worse at, women did worse than men. But when the same test was presented as a measure of empathy, women did just as well as men. … Continue reading "Gender Differences in Spatial Ability Are a Social Construct"

How Not to Get Lost

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:23:42 +0000

I am not one of those people who is always getting themselves lost. In fact the idea of lost is a more or less academic concept to me: I have a rock-solid sense of direction. I suspect that the same is true for most of the map aficionados who read this website. But maybe you are someone who … Continue reading "How Not to Get Lost"

xkcd’s Liquid Resize Map Projection

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 11:56:53 +0000

Every so often Randall Monroe puts up a map-related xkcd cartoon, and each time I dutifully post about it. This morning’s is called “Bad Map Projection: Liquid Resize.” Or: when Photoshop algorithms attack.

Sohei Nishino at SFMOMA

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 23:21:40 +0000

An exhibition of Sohei Nishino’s work is taking place right now at SFMOMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In his Diorama Map series, Nishino assembles patchwork-quilt aerial views of cities from thousands of his photographs; each city is thrown deep into its own uncanny valley. Here’s an Atlas Obscura profile from last November. New Work: Sohei … Continue reading "Sohei Nishino at SFMOMA"

American Nations Applied to the 2016 Election

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 16:46:50 +0000

Writing for the Portland Press-Herald, Colin Woodard compares the 2016 presidential election results to the eleven regional cultures he sets out in his 2011 book, American Nations. “The bottom line: the 2016 presidential election results exhibited the same regional patterning we’ve seen in virtually all competitive contests in our history, including those in 2008 and 2012. But by running on an unconventional … Continue reading "American Nations Applied to the 2016 Election"

Christine Gedeon’s Stitched Plots

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 16:22:29 +0000

An exhibition opening this week at the Jane Lombard Gallery in Manhattan features, among others, the work of Christine Gedeon, an artist who “uses a sewing machine, fabric and paint on raw canvas to create improvisational stitched ‘plots’ that toe the line between abstraction and landscape. Examining issues of the urban environment, cartography, and urban … Continue reading "Christine Gedeon’s Stitched Plots"

The Cartographer Behind Virginia’s Official Highway Map

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 23:09:46 +0000

Official highway maps—paper highway maps—are still a thing: the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot has a profile of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s sole cartographer, Dwayne Altice, who’s responsible for the biennial updates to that state’s official transportation map. Includes some interesting behind-the-scenes detail about how the map is made—and how it used to be made (layers and layers … Continue reading "The Cartographer Behind Virginia’s Official Highway Map"

Vermeer’s Mania for Maps

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 22:55:07 +0000

Last November art historian James Welu gave a talk at the Leventhal Map Center about Jan Vermeer’s use of maps in his paintings. The talk is now available on YouTube. I found it fascinating that Vermeer represented actual maps in his paintings — many of which are now very scarce or available only fragmentarily. [Leventhal Map Center]

A Giant Map for Presidential Inauguration Planning

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 20:59:09 +0000

The U.S. military uses a huge floor map of Washington, D.C. to plan for presidential inaugurations, as the Tech Insider video above shows. According to this, it’s used by the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, a joint-service organization that provides military ceremonial support. (See this U.S. Army article from 2012 about the 2013 inauguration, and this 2008 … Continue reading "A Giant Map for Presidential Inauguration Planning"

Book Roundup for January 2017

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 20:05:21 +0000

Günter Schilder’s Early Dutch Maritime Cartography: The North Holland School of Cartography (c. 1580-c. 1620) comes out this month from Brill; its book launch takes place in Amsterdam on 27 January. [Tony Campbell] Also scheduled for publication later this month: Mapping the Holy Land: The Origins of Cartography in Palestine by Bruno Schelhaas, Jutta Faehndrich and Halim Goren (I. … Continue reading "Book Roundup for January 2017"


Wed, 04 Jan 2017 19:43:05 +0000

Caitlin at Geo Lounge on pantographs: “Before the use of computers to replicate and manipulate maps, a pantograph was one of the ways used to either reduce or enlarge the size of a map while reproducing an accurate copy of the original map.” I did not know about pantographs—they seem to have been widely used in drawing … Continue reading "Pantographs"

A Map Poem to End the Year

Sat, 31 Dec 2016 22:00:40 +0000

Author Fran Wilde closes out her map year with a poem.

More on Escape Maps

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 20:42:44 +0000

I’ve known about escape maps—maps printed on silk to help prisoners of war escape Germany during the Second World War—for a while now, and have blogged about them before, but this Atlas Obscura piece on them taught me a few things I didn’t know, and is a fascinating read besides. See also this article from the … Continue reading "More on Escape Maps"

National Geographic Infographics

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 19:59:23 +0000

Speaking of National Geographic. If the magazine is known for its cartography and its photography, one should not forget the illustrations, charts and infographics that accompany many of the articles and appear on the back of every folded map that comes several times a year with a magazine subscription. Now there’s a book of them: National Geographic Infographics. Edited … Continue reading "National Geographic Infographics"

All Over the Map’s Best Maps of 2016

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 19:38:25 +0000

Are we already at the end of the year, and it’s time for the year-in-review writeups? It is? Man. I won’t be doing one of those, but at the National Geographic map blog, All Over the Map, Greg Miller has done so at All Over the Map, the map blog he and Betsy Mason write for National Geographic. Includes … Continue reading "All Over the Map’s Best Maps of 2016"

Applying Fantasy Maps to Globes

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 20:44:39 +0000

Map to Globe is an online tool that allows you to transfer a flat map onto a globe. Adam Whitehead has been trying it out with fantasy maps. Some work better than others. Westeros is not one of them, “because the maps of the North and the lands beyond the Wall need to be adjusted … Continue reading "Applying Fantasy Maps to Globes"

Electoral Map What-Ifs

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 00:29:42 +0000

Neil Freeman’s Random States of America creates election maps from an alternate reality. They apply real-world election results to randomly generated state boundaries, which can yield radically different results than what actually happened. Taking things one step further, Josh Wallaert of Places asked Freeman “to calculate who would win the 2016 election if the states were … Continue reading "Electoral Map What-Ifs"

Recent Book Reviews

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 23:51:47 +0000

At The Skiffy and Fanty Show, Paul Weimer reviews Atlas Obscura. “So is there a point to the book? Is there any good reason to read the book and not just go trolling and traversing through the website, which has many more entries? Yes. Even in an interconnected world such as ours, there is a tactile experience … Continue reading "Recent Book Reviews"

The Great American Word Mapper

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 23:34:17 +0000

Like The United Swears of America, The Great American Word Mapper explores regional variation in English language use in the United States based on geocoded Twitter data, this time through a search interface that allows side-by-side comparisons. As before, forensic linguist Jack Grieve is involved, along with fellow linguist Andrea Nini. [Kottke] Previously: Speaking American; The United Swears of America.

Understanding Engraved Maps

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 16:45:55 +0000

My last post was about engraved copper plates used in map printing. To understand the relationship between printed maps and the plates that print them (woodblock, copper plate or lithographic stone), see Tony Campbell’s article, “Understanding Engraved Maps,” reprinted at his indispensable Map History/History of Cartography site.

Engraved Copper Plates Retrieved

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 15:50:01 +0000

The British Library has acquired nine engraved copper plates, used to print maps of India for the East India Company in the late 18th and early 19th century, from a scrap metal dealer. Another plate had been acquired in 1988 from a Norfolk farmer, who had intended to use it as a mudguard for his tractor. The plates … Continue reading "Engraved Copper Plates Retrieved"

End of the Line: A Tube Map of Tube Maps

Sun, 18 Dec 2016 15:25:00 +0000

Well, this is meta. Kenneth Field, whose map of Mars I told you about earlier this year, has created a tube map of tube maps. End of the Line is an attempt to be the last word in tube map pastiche. […] While Beck himself likely ‘copied’ a number of aspects that ended up on … Continue reading "End of the Line: A Tube Map of Tube Maps"

Soviet Spy Maps, Redux

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 00:15:25 +0000

That Soviet spies created detailed topographic maps of the world, including their Cold War enemies, is not news. Wired had a feature on the maps last year, and I’ve been aware of the work of John Davies and Alex Kent on the subject for more than a decade. But for some unexplained reason interest in Soviet maps has had a … Continue reading "Soviet Spy Maps, Redux"

The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 23:26:28 +0000

Growing up, people hissed that I was born to be a mapmaker, being half of one thing and half the other. In our language, the word for mapmaker is also the word for traitor. Alix E. Harrow’s fantasy novelette, “The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage,” published today on, is set in an alternate turn-of-the-century America … Continue reading "The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage"

NOAA’s White Christmas

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 19:35:47 +0000

NOAA maps the probability of a white Christmas across the lower 48 states: the interactive version includes clickable locations. While the map shows the historical probability that a snow depth of at least one inch will be observed on December 25, the actual conditions in any year may vary widely from these because the weather patterns … Continue reading "NOAA’s White Christmas"

Behind the Scenes of the Washington Post’s Six Maps

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 19:19:27 +0000

Remember the Washington Post’s six maps of America’s infrastructure from earlier this month? Post graphics reporter Tim Meko takes us behind the scenes, discussing the design inspirations, data sources, and methodology behind the maps. Previously: ‘The Massive Scope of America’s Infrastructure’.

Miscellaneous Globes

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 00:40:54 +0000

Random and miscellaneous globe items: James Wilson was America’s first globe maker; his Bradford, Vermont-based globe factory opened in 1813. Geolounge points to the above illustration of Wilson, undated but from the early 20th century, by Roy Frederic Heinrich. The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center: “Dennis Townsend, a Vermont schoolteacher, created this collapsible, portable, and inexpensive paper globe … Continue reading "Miscellaneous Globes"

New Biography of 17th-Century Cartographer John Ogilby

Sun, 11 Dec 2016 15:46:19 +0000

John Ogilby, the Scottish cartographer who in 1675 published the Britannia atlas—essentially the first road atlas of Great Britain—is the subject of a new biography by Alan Ereira. The Nine Lives of John Ogilby: Britain’s Master Mapmaker and His Secrets came out last month from Duckworth Overlook. (Direct Amazon UK link, though it’s available from third-party … Continue reading "New Biography of 17th-Century Cartographer John Ogilby"