Latitudes Mar. 2019

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Map Society


March 2019






Thursday, March 21, 2019 – 5:00 PM – Madison Building, Geography and Map Reading Room, Library of Congress: The History of Cartography Project: Its Past, Future, and Lasting Importance, by Dr. Matthew Edney, Professor, University of Southern Maine; Osher Chair in the History of Cartography; Osher Map Library; Director, History of Cartography Project; and WMS member


The History of Cartography project is in some ways unique in the field of academia. Its funding has come primarily from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which described it as one of the most sweeping academic undertakings of a generation, and the National Science Foundation.
Writing in the New York Times, Edward Rothstein said, "An important scholarly enterprise, the History of Cartography…is the most ambitious overview of map making ever undertaken….People come to know the world the way they come to map it—through their perceptions of how its elements are connected and of how they should move among them. This is precisely what the series is attempting by situating the map at the heart of cultural life and revealing its relationship to society, science, and religion…. It is trying to define a new set of relationships between maps and the physical world that involve more than geometric correspondence. It is in essence a new map of human attempts to chart the world."
David Woodward (1942-2004) and J. B. Harley (1932-1991), two giants in the history of maps and map-making, conceived the History of Cartography series in 1977; formal work began in 1981. It was an effort to encourage connoisseurs of maps, devotees of map history, and specialists dedicated to identifying and describing early maps to also consider how and why people have made and used maps. In the ensuing years, treating maps as cultural documents generated so many new insights that the resource they initially planned expanded from a four-book series to six broadly-inclusive and increasingly large volumes, some with multiple books, to be published in eight installments.
Woodward established what would become the History of Cartography Project at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1981. After Harley’s death in 1991 and then Woodward’s in 2004, Matthew Edney was appointed project director in 2005. Each director has headed an international effort edited by a team of scholars; books are published by the University of Chicago Press.
Read more about the History of Cartography project at





11 April 2019
In the Footsteps of the Crime (Recovering a Map Masterpiece stolen by E. Forbs Smiley), by Dr. Ronald Grim, Formerly Curator of Maps, Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library (WMS)

17 May 2019
Annual Washington Map Society Dinner
Speaker: J. C. McElveen (WMS), Exhibit Curator for Westward the Course of Empire: Exploring and Settling the American West 1803-1869, an exhibition of maps and books from the collection of J. C. McElveen, Jr., on veiw at New York City's Grolier Club during May 2018.
Venue: Maggiano's at Tysons
Full Details & Registration:





Greenbrier Historical Society, North House Museum, 814 W Washington St., Lewisburg, WV. James Wilson, America's First Terrestrial and Celestial Globe Maker.


Wilson was a self-taught globe maker from New Hampshire. Wilson and three of his sons operated two manufacturing plants in Bradford, Vt., and Albany, N.Y. After just a few years of operation they were able to outsell the European globe makers who dominated the American market until then. It's a real American success story. The exhibit will include the historical society’s original, fully restored Wilson terrestrial globe. Another unusual exhibit item is the first map made and engraved in America. Printed in 1794, it is a map of Virginia by Samuel Lewis. The exhibit continues to March 2019 (NFI on close date).


Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBBM), St. Michaels, MD.  Exploring the Chesapeake–Mapping the Bay.
This exhibit examines the different ways the Chesapeake Bay has been portrayed over time through mapping and charting. The exhibition continues in CBMM’s Steamboat Building through March 17, 2019. The exhibit was recently visited by four WMS presidents (see WMS web page for details) who gave it high marks. For more information:



Johns Hopkins George Peabody Library, 17 East Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, MD.  Maryland, from the Willard Hackerman Map Collection.


From colonial impressions of the Chesapeake Bay to detailed city plans for guiding Baltimore's rapid expansion, this exhibition features over 30 of the most stunning and historically significant maps of early Maryland from the collection of the late Baltimore developer, philanthropist, and Johns Hopkins alumnus Willard Hackerman, Engr 1938. The maps are brought together with related rare books, objects, and digital "story maps" to reveal the passion of a collector, the early mapping of Maryland, and the potential of combining historical maps with modern data to re-examine the past.


Library of Virginia (LVA), Richmond VA, 800 E. Broad Street, Richmond. 27 April 2019. Alan and Natalie Voorhees Lectures. Pictorial Maps: The Art, History, and Culture of this Popular Map Genre.


Speakers: (1) Dr. Stephen J. Hornsby on “Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps,” and Eliane Dotson (Old World Auctions and President, WMS) on “Putting the ‘Art’ Back in Cartography.” There will be an exhibit of pictorial maps (10 AM – 4 PM); map appraisals by Old World Auctions (10 AM to Noon); Tours of the LVA conservation lab led by conservator Leslie Courtois (10:15 & 11:15 AM); Exploring maps in Digitool workshop (11 AM – Noon – pre-registration required); Lunch break (Noon - box lunches available through pre-registration); and the lectures themselves (1 – 3 PM). Hosted by the Fry-Jefferson Map Society and Semper Virginia Society of the LVA; free to members. Non-members $10. More information and registration at or contact Dawn Greggs at 804.692.3813 or at





American Philosophical Society (APS), 104 S. 5th Street Philadelphia, PA 19106. Mapping a Nation: Shaping the Early American Republic. April 12 – December 29, 2019.


This exhibit traces the creation and use of maps in the colonies and young republic from the mid-18th century through 1816. It investigates the way maps, as both artworks and practical tools, had political and social meaning. It features historical maps, surveying instruments, books, manuscripts, and other objects to show how maps were used to create and extend the physical, political, and ideological boundaries of the new nation while creating and reinforcing structural inequalities in the Early Republic. The exhibition emphasizes the processes that produced maps—surveying, drawing, engraving, and printing—in addition to the information and ideas contained in the maps.  It also sheds light on the ways that mapmakers functioned as political actors—and how different people used maps as political and ideological tools—to express multiple, sometimes competing visions of what the new United States would be.
The exhibit draws on the APS’s extensive Library and Museum holdings. Highlights of the exhibition include a 1757 copy of the John Mitchell map of the British Empire in North America, manuscript maps from the American Revolution, surveying instruments, the first map of Tennessee as a state, George Washington’s copy of the 1792 map of Washington, D.C., and maps from the journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition along with the copper plates used to publish them.
The APS will sponsor a symposium on “The Power of Maps and the Politics of Borders” on October 10-12, 2019. Details, including those for persons wishing to present papers, can be found at


S.T. Lee Gallery, Weston Library, Oxford University, UK.  Talking Maps.


The Bodleian Libraries’ summer 2019 exhibition is a celebration of maps and the stories they tell. Drawing on the Bodleian’s unparalleled map collection, Talking Maps brings together an extraordinary collection of ancient, pre-modern and contemporary maps in a range of media as well as showcasing fascinating imaginary, fictional and war maps.


The exhibition will explore how maps are neither transparent objects of scientific communication, nor baleful tools of ideology, but rather proposals about the world that help people to understand who they are by describing where they are. July 2019 - February 2020.


More Opportunities:
Many more events are listed on the web site known simply as Cartography Calendars, operated for many years by WMS member John Docktor. Go to (note relatively new address) and select the page you wish to see, i.e., Calendar of Meetings and/or Calendar of Exhibitions.




The Washington Map Society follows the closing decisions of the Federal Government. If they are closed due to bad weather, our meeting will be canceled. If bad weather develops on the day of our event, and the Government authorizes early release, we will probably still be forced to cancel. (If the Madison Building is closed, there’s not much we can do.) We will attempt to send a blast e-mail in that case. Please check your email before coming to a meeting when bad weather is predicted. You can also check the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) web site at Finally, you can call the OPM status hotline at 202-606-1900.


A Word of Warning: Predicting snowfall in the DC area is an imperfect science at best.  Once in a great while we have cancelled meetings and then not a single flake of snow fell. That is always disappointing and irritating, but it doesn’t happen very often, and this is still the most workable system we have come up with.


A Reminder: Some of the DC area’s worst snowfalls have come in the month of March, so this guidance remains very much in effect.



Cartographic Quotations:
(taken from multiple sources but all from same author)

"There are few results of man's activities that so closely parallel man's interests and intellectual capabilities as the map."
"The author took the only course in cartography available to him in 1937; it must have been fairly typical of the few being offered in America: lectures based largely on personal experiences were supplemented by a relatively few assigned readings, and by Deetz and Adam’s Elements of Map Projection. No textbook was used because there was none in English."
"I started with a kind of artistic approach... I visualized the best-looking shapes and sizes. I worked with the variables until it got to the point where, if I changed one of them, it didn't get any better... [only then I] figure out the mathematical formula to produce that effect."
"Take an orange and draw something on it -- say, a human face. Now carefully remove the peel, trying to keep it in one piece, and flatten it against your kitchen table. You'll see that in making a two-dimensional object out of a round one, something has to give. Either the face gets distorted and looks all 'mushed out,' or in flattening the peel, it breaks into segments, dividing the face as well into several parts. A cartographer chooses between a series of those kind of lesser-of-two-evils alternatives."
"I decided there ought to be another way of balancing out the various distortions without doing it mathematically."
"Happiest day of my life, was when the Defense Department took down its Mercator... I started learning how to make maps while on an Army payroll. So getting to see mine in the Pentagon, flanked by generals, is a little like being a prophet who is finally honored by his hometown."

Arthur H. Robinson (January 5, 1915 – October 10, 2004) was an American geographer and cartographer, who was professor in the Geography Department at the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1947 until he retired in 1980. He was a prolific writer and influential philosopher on cartography, and one of his most notable accomplishments is the Robinson projection in 1961.




(Note: For better or worse – probably the latter – most written content in Latitudes is the work and wording of editor Bert Johnson, Vice President and Program Chair of WMS. Bert can be reached at Lay-out, much of the graphics, and transmission is done by Eliane Dotson, President of WMS.) 


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