Latitudes Newsletter Dec 2016

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Map Society


December 2016




Thursday, December 8, 2016 – 7 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Shelley S. Mastran, Chair of the Board for the Reston Historic Trust and Museum, who holds a PhD in Geography, will present Early Roads and Settlements in Northern Virginia: A Cartographic Perspective.


The presentation will trace the evolution of European settlement and road construction in Northern Virginia with a focus on Fairfax County.  Early maps help explain the rationale for this development. Some of the major thoroughfares used today were laid down several centuries ago.
A useful reference for anyone wishing to read up for this talk is The Cartography of Northern Virginia, by the late Dick Stephenson, WMS member, LoC staffer, and friend to many.



Thursday, January 12, 2017 – 7 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Our first meeting of the year will be a bit early in the month. That’s because the following week will be somewhat busy on Capitol Hill with the Presidential Inauguration. As noted last month, we did ask them very nicely if they could swap dates with us or even delay the Inauguration so we could meet later in the month, but we got nowhere – they wouldn’t even consider it.
At any rate, the January 2017 meeting will be a Members Map Night (MMN), sort of a cartographic Show and Tell for Grown-Ups. These are always interesting, since you never know what will turn up. People have been known to pull out odd maps and simply ask “does anybody have any idea what this thing is?” To keep this from being entirely chaotic, persons interested in displaying maps should contact Program Chair Eliane Dotson ( to get on the docket.  The first ten persons to do so will be the program, so don’t tarry. 




Thursday, February 12, 2017 – 7 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Dr. Sven Furhmann, Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science, George Mason University, will give a talk on How to Fold a Map. (Ed. Note:  I have no idea what that means either. Come and find out.) The year 2016 was designated the International Map Year, a worldwide recognition of maps, mapping products and their roles and uses. While the history and achievements of mapping products were certainly celebrated; the International Map Year also encouraged exploring new challenges and opportunities to further develop spatial visualization techniques and products. Dr. Fuhrmann has been involved in such development for the past 15 years and has significantly shaped cartography and geovisualization research. His presentation will reflect on past geovisualization challenges and achievements and highlight research in virtual and augmented realities.




The November meeting was memorable for a number of reasons.  The main one, of course, was because P.J. Mode spoke on a subject near and dear to his heart, i.e., Maps and Messages: Deconstructing Persuasive Cartography. Persuasive or suggestive maps are those intended primarily to influence opinions or beliefs - to send a message - rather than to communicate objective geographic information. Mr. Mode prefers this term to propaganda which has a more pejorative connotation.  Given the limited time available, Mr. Mode divided his talk into two groups of maps:  (1) war and peace, and (2) everything else.  For the latter, he showed examples in the realms of religion, politics, investment, and imperialism.  It was a very convincing presentation.
It was likewise noteworthy for the sheer of pleasure of having P.J.’s company once again. He long ago lived in DC and worked on the Hill on a senatorial staff, but later decamped to New York City. He now describes himself as a “recovering lawyer.” There were folks in the audience who knew him from the old days.


The final reason this day was memorable is not as happy.  One block from the Madison Building of the Library of Congress is a Chinese restaurant called the Hunan Dynasty. For as long as anyone can recall, the WMS board has taken the speaker to dinner there before the meeting - not this time.


About 1 PM we learned there was a fire in that block and our fears were soon confirmed that it was in “our” restaurant. Reservations were quickly made for the Hawk and Dove, another Capitol Hill hangout. This worked well, but we are concerned about our friends at the Hunan Dynasty. Estimates are that they will be closed for five to seven weeks.




It was a poorly kept secret at best, but now it’s out in the open. Ralph Ehrenberg, long-time chief of the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, has put in his papers to retire a second time. He had been the G&M chief once before, but retired for health reasons. Having dealt with that issue, he returned to the LoC and succeeded John Hebert, the man who had succeeded him. Now, after nine more years, he will hang up his cleats again, but will probably remain through the transition to assist his successor. He will continue to support the division as a volunteer and will remain an active member of WMS – thank goodness.




As reported in Latitudes 2016-11, the cartographic triple header in Chicago was a great success: 24-26 October: 34th International Symposium of IMCoS – Private Map Collecting and Public Map Collections in the United States.  27-28 October: The Nebenzahl Lectures – Maps, Their Collecting and Study: A Fifty Year Retrospective.  28-30 October: Chicago International Map Fair. What follows are a few shots of WMS members and other attendees enjoying themselves.





The late Alan Voorhees was a longtime member of WMS and a generous supporter of the map collection at the Library of Virginia. The map room at LVA was endowed by the Voorhees, and this annual lecture series was founded in their honor. Many WMS members attend each year.  It is sponsored by the Fry-Jefferson Society, the support group for the map collection. The venue, as always, will be the Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad Street, Richmond, VA. Time is not yet known. Contact Cassandra Farrell at cassandra.farrell(at)
This year the event will focus on early Richmond. Speakers:
Marianne McKee – From Survey to Settlement: Maps of the City of Richmond, Virginia
Lyle Browning – LVA Maps & Archaeology: Going From The Known To Find The Unknown Or The Lost, The Forgotten, The Misbegotten
Leslie Courtois – Conservation of Richard Young’s Manuscript Maps of Richmond




Washington Map Society has a very robust FaceBook (FB) page which you are invited to join.  Since re-wickering our format and postings about two years ago, our FB group has more than doubled in size to about 373 members and is still growing. 
There are about three to five separate postings per day (not counting Likes and Comments). Our largest sources of postings are (a) news stories about maps, cartographers, events, etc., and (b) re-postings from major centers of cartography and map studies, e.g., the Library of Congress, Harvard Map Library, Leventhal Center for the Map at Boston Public Library, the Osher Map Library, etc. We post news from other map groups, and announcements of upcoming new publications. And then there are the serendipitous posting such as an artist working with cartographic themes or a sheet cake decorated like a 17th century map. You may think of map libraries as rather staid, but they are the originators of such postings as Map Monster Monday and Tattooable Tuesday. (The nomination means they think some embellishment they nominate would make a great tattoo. I don’t know if anyone has ever followed through.)
Because we established the FB page as a means of outreach, we have many page members who are not WMS members.  It is a younger crowd and more international crowd than our formal membership. If you are on FaceBook, come take a look.






We had a major article on this in the previous Latitudes, and since then the latest Portolan has arrived with a feature article containing even greater detail. We will not repeat that here, except to say that if you intend to attend, please start now to make your plans. The registration, air and hotel reservations, visa application, etc. are best done well when they are not done quickly. Also, the reduced registrations fees are in effect only until 28 February 2017. Go to




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.  We have cancelled meetings and then not a single drop 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 over time.



“I am told there are people who do not care for maps, and find it hard to believe. The names, the shapes of the woodlands, the courses of the roads and rivers, the prehistoric footsteps of man still distinctly traceable up hill and down dale, the mills and the ruins, the ponds and the ferries, perhaps the standing stone or the druidic circle on the heath; here is an inexhaustible fund of interest for any [one] with eyes to see or two pence-worth of imagination to understand with.”

Robert Louis Stevenson,
explaining the inspiration for
“Treasure Island”



(Note: For better or worse – probably the latter – all content in Latitudes is the work and wording of editor Bert Johnson, unless specifically noted to be the work of someone else. Bert can be reached at Lay-out and transmission is done by Eliane Dotson.) 


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