Chicago Map Society

The Chicago Map Society typically meets at The Newberry on the third Thursday of every month during the academic year (September through May). Meetings start at 5:30 p.m. with a social half-hour, followed by an hour presentation on a cartographic subject of interest to our membership. Our meetings are open to the public, but to help defray expenses, non-members are asked for a small donation at the door. If you are unfamiliar with The Newberry, which is located on the near north side of Chicago, here are directions.

The list below details the upcoming meetings of the Chicago Map Society, as well as an occasional event that is of especial importance to our membership.

John Docktor maintains calendars of map society meetings and cartographic exhibitions worldwide, both of which are available at Cartographic Calendars. For information on the events held by Wisconsin Map Society, our sister organization ninety miles to the north, please visit their website by clicking here.

Date:  Thursday, September 21, 2017 5:30 PM
Title: The Living Globe: An Introduction to Spherical Display Systems
Speaker:  Richard A. Kohrs
Location:  Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Rick Kohrs has been with the University of Wisconsin Space Science and Engineering center for twenty-eight years and specializes in creating satellite composites used on three-dimensional spherical displays. In fact, Rick has been a driving force behind “Science on a Sphere,” which is NOAA’s global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto sixteen-to-sixty-inch diameter spheres that are similar to giant animated globes. Now installed in over eighty museum and science center exhibits worldwide, these spheres can be used to display images of atmospheric storms, climate change, and ocean temperature and are used to explain these and other complex environmental processes in a way that is simultaneously intuitive and captivating.

Join us for what should be a unique learning experience as Rick uses a spherical display system to illustrate how satellites orbiting the earth continuously gather data and how this data are used to help forecasters predict the weather. In addition, Rick will touch on other complicated global concepts, such as how El Nino and La Nina contribute to global climate change.

Date: Thursday, October 19, 2017 5:30 PM
Title: Sky Maps and the Origins of Modern Constellations
Speaker: Pedro Raposo
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

For millennia, humans have found familiar shapes in the night skies. Different cultures have given different names to these shapes, and have seen, or constructed, different shapes. Many of us can point out the Big Bear or Orion the Hunter, but probably very few would be able to identify the eight-eight constellations admitted to the “canon” by the International Astronomical Union in the 1920s. Please join us as Dr. Pedro Raposo, curator of the Adler’s Webster Institute for the History of Astronomy, guides us through this fascinating story, illustrated by reference to the Adler’s splendid collection of celestial maps and atlases.

This is a joint meeting with the Friends of the Adler Webster Institute.

Date: Thursday, November 16, 2017 5:30 PM
Title: The Rockford Map Company: County Plat Books for the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
Speaker: Charlie Lunn and Brock Alekna
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Most of us have had some experience with county plat books, a genre of atlas that had its beginnings in the 1850s and became ubiquitous in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Plat books, which show the boundaries and ownership of rural property, are an essential tool for realtors and developers, and have proven their value as historical records for genealogists and local historians. Anyone who grew up on a farm in the twentieth century knows that the plat book persisted, not as a large leather-bound folio, but as a more modest booklet of maps, stapled or spiral-bound, and for many of us, the name on the cover was “Rockford Map Publishers.”

Founded in 1944 by J. Q. Cummings in the basement of his home, Rockford Map Publishers began as a farm plat book company with all of the maps painstakingly researched, hand drawn and published by the founder himself. Rockford Map owns the largest and most comprehensive plat information record of its kind in the country and is recognized as a pioneer and industry leader. What started as rural farm mapping has now grown to include digital map products, custom mapping services and spatial parcel data throughout the United States. Senior Vice President Charlie Lunn and Marketing Manager Brock Alekna will give us a guided tour of the history and work of this venerable Illinois map publisher.

Date: Thursday, December 21, 2017
Title: Annual Holiday Gala and Members’ Show-and-Tell
Speaker: Members of the Chicago Map Society
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Join us for our annual Holiday Gala, which will feature an especially full smorgasbord of holiday treats for your dining and drinking pleasure. We will also continue our tradition of pairing this party with our “Members’ Night” that allows members to display and speak about a special item in their personal collections. In the past, we’ve enjoyed hearing about maps, atlases, globes, and “cartifacts”—old, new, borrowed, and blue (yes, we have seen blueprints). You will be given five minutes to talk about your item, will be able to display it on an easel or table, and can use our projector if that will help.

We will also have a silent auction of any items that you may wish to donate to the Society—the full value of which is tax-deductible! To help us assemble our program, please email us at by December 19 with details about your item.

Date: Thursday, January 18, 2018 5:30 PM
Title: Beyond Google Maps: Map Usage in the 21st Century
Speaker: Dennis McClendon
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Google Maps is not the only way to navigate the modern world—even on your phone. Cartographer Dennis McClendon will present a variety of other online resources—some worldwide reference maps, some on specialized themes—to make us informed travelers and hometown explorers.

Date: Thursday, February 15, 2018 5:30 PM
Title: Land Surveying and Mapmaking Transformed
Speaker: Carl Kupfer
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

The science and art of land surveying, which started with rudimentary instruments, techniques, and hand-drawn paper plats and maps, has evolved into a realm and creation of highly accurate and virtually automated data platforms that rely on satellites for three-dimensional spatial positioning, interact with geographical information systems (GIS), generate digital data and mapping products, and alas, can spit out paper maps and charts on demand.

Mr Kupfer will review the fascinating history of surveying from earliest times to the present, presenting examples of unusual surveys, instruments, techniques, and methods used to produce the end-product documents. He will then discuss surveying and mapping in the twenty-first century, and explain how the science of geographical information management in the digital age has transformed the fields of land surveying and classic cartography.

Date: Thursday, March 15, 5:30 PM
Title: Treasures from the Archives of Greeley-Howard-Norlin & Smith
Speaker: Don & Tanya Smith
Location: Towner Fellows’ Lounge, The Newberry

Established in 1854 by Samuel Greeley, Greeley-Howard-Norlin & Smith (GHNS) is the oldest land surveying business in the Chicago metropolitan area. Located in Flossmoor, Ill., the firm’s surveyors have walked virtually every block in Chicago and a good number of suburban properties as well.  And, in its over one-hundred-sixty years in business, GHNS has accumulated an extensive archive that includes 250,000 plats of surveys, over 10,000 copies of plats of recorded subdivisions, and thousands of pages of other survey-related documents and maps. In fact, GHNS has survey plats of Chicagoland from before the Great Chicago Fire, including a number of plats and maps connected to the legal work of an Illinois attorney by the name of Abraham Lincoln.

Please join us as the firm’s owners take us on a tour of what is likely the most complete archive of the Chicago metropolitan area in existence today.

Date: Thursday, April 19, 5:30 PM
Title:  The Maps of the Peruvian Amazon made by the Franciscans in the Second Half of the 18th Century and Their Contribution to the Later Printed Maps of South America
Speaker:  Carme Montaner
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Description forthcoming.

Date: Thursday, May 17, 2018 5:30 PM
Title: Book Party celebrating the publication of Neighborhoods
Speaker: Emily Talen
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

This book is written in support of those who believe that neighborhoods are, or should be, genuinely relevant in our lives not as casual descriptors of geographic location, but as places that, in contrast to the ambiguous complexity of cities and sprawl, provide an essential context for daily life. Such neighborhoods would be identifiable, serviced, diverse, and connected; their primary purpose would not be social separation. The book is motivated by an awareness that not everyone is content with the neighborhoods current status hovering between valentine and social separator. Might it be possible to constitute neighborhoods that are more than a label, that reject segregation, and that are not hopelessly anachronous? Can the neighborhood be thought of as being more than a shaded area on a map, more than a 1920s era neighborhood diagram, and more than a handful of people living on the same street? Is it possible to re-instate some version of the historical neighborhood as something real and meaningful in 21st century urban experience?

Date: Thursday, June 21, 5:30 PM
Title: Annual Field Trip to the Barry MacLean Collection
Speaker: TBA
Location: The Barry MacLean Collection, Green Oaks, Ill.

Description forthcoming.