Latitudes Newsletter Feb 2016





Because Ted Calloway had to step down as president late last year, Ed Redmond, vice president, took over as president.  At the December board meeting, director Eliane Dotson was unanimously elected to fill the vacant vice president position. The term for both Ed and Eliane will run until the regularly scheduled elections at the April business meeting. Eliane had been serving as membership chair. Those duties have been turned over to Jeff Katz. The net result is that there is one vacancy on the board, but the number of persons on the board can vary, so the director position will not be filled until the spring elections.

Thursday, February 18, 2016 – 7 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC: John Rennie Short, Professor in the School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will speak on The National Atlas. This will examine the emergence of modern national atlases in various nations from the late nineteenth century down to the present day. It reflects on the rise of the postcolonial, the newly independent, and the recently reinvented. The talk considers a number of themes, including how these atlases depict national landscapes, embody national communities, and condense national debates. His research in this area was assisted by a fellowship at the library of the American Geographical Society in 2009. Dr. Short has written 37 books and numerous papers for academic journals, many dealing with cartographic themes, and is one of the best known authors in the field today. A native of Scotland, educated in Scotland and England, he has taught at U.S. universities (Syracuse and UMBC) since 1990. He is the recipient of many honors and awards, and in 2006 was the Philip Lee Phillips Invited Lecturer at the Library of Congress where he spoke on Cartographic Encounters in the New World. To view his CV, click here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 – Noon – Madison Bldg – LoC: Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University has sought to cast light on one of the world’s most mysterious states. From 2006 to 2009, he employed Google Earth to create North Korea Uncovered, one of the most detailed maps of North Korea that has ever been available to the public. Mr. Melvin has gone on to help develop 38 North: DPRK Digital Atlas. This work depicts thousands of buildings, monuments, missile storage facilities, mass graves, secret labor camps, palaces, restaurants, tourist sites, main roads of the country, and even includes the entrance to the country's subterranean nuclear test base. He will speak on North Korea Uncovered: The Crowd-Sourced Mapping of the World’s Most Secret State. This is the first of several talks on the mapping of denied areas. It will be given in the Mumford Room of the Madison Building of the Library of Congress (Sixth floor, LM 649). Hungry patrons can get lunch before or afterward in the cafeteria on the same floor. Interested members of the Washington Map Society are encouraged to attend. For more info, click here.

Thursday – March 24, 2016 – 7 PM – Madison Bldg, LoC:
Dr. John Hessler, FRGS, LoC G&M staff, will present Watching the Apocalypse: Using GIS and Social Media to Map Refugees. In April 2014, Dr Jen Ziemke, Co-founder and Co-director of the International Network for Crisis Mappers, spoke to WMS about crowd sourcing maps in poorly mapped areas during political crisis or natural disasters. This technique has rapidly gained credibility and was vital to relief work following the Nepal earthquake. For more about crisis mapping click here.

John Hessler will discuss its application in recent refugee crises. John is one of the LoC’s best known polymaths and has spoken to WMS several times. He played a pivotal role in the construction of the recent Phaidon Press best seller Map: Exploring the World. During summer 2015, he taught for the Rare Book School on The Art & Science of Cartography, 200–1550. For more about John Hessler click here.


Thursday – April 14, 2016 – 7 PM – Madison Bldg, LoC: Ed Papenfuse, former Archivist of the State of Maryland, will present Thomas Holdsworth Poppleton and the Surveyor's Map that Made Baltimore.
Saturday – April 16, 2016 – 1 PM – Library of Virginia: Field Trip to the Alan M. and Nathalie P. Voorhees Lectures on the History of Cartography, 800 E. Broad St., Richmond, VA. Donald Hawkins will present Alexandria, Virginia: In and Out of the District of Columbia, 1791-1865. Dennis Gurtz, WMS, will discuss Iconic Maps of Washington D.C. An exhibit of maps from the LVA collection will accompany their talks, and there will also be a special map conservation workshop.
Friday – May 13, 2016 - Washington Map Society Annual Dinner: Planning is actively under way; speaker and location tentatively chosen; will be announced as soon as confirmed.

Despite the looming arrival of a record-breaking blizzard, we had a good turn-out at the Library of Congress on 21 January for the excellent talk by Geoffrey Martin, Archivist of the American Association of Geographers. He spoke on the evolution of geography as a discipline in the United States. The talk encompassed the entire 20th century and had so many facets it's hard to summarize. Three which particularly struck home are noted here. The first was insight into a world where scholars sometimes conducted feuds which lasted for decades, but more often formed networks in which they supported one another, stayed in each other's homes, wrote copiously to one another, etc. Their letters were a gold mine of information and insight into a by-gone era. (Future scholars will not have this resource, since emails are much more perishable.) The second point was the degree to which some geographers were supported by patrons who sometimes had geographers doing research staying in their homes for weeks or months at a time. The third, and most sobering, was the degree to which the geographer community was attacked by the McCarthyite witch hunts of the fifties. Martin reckoned that geographers were the largest single group targeted. He speculated that this was because they traveled a great deal in their work, had foreign friends, and often sympathized with the grass level populations among whom they worked. For the same reason, anthropologists were also heavily targeted. All this and much more is addressed in Martin’s magnum opus The Rise of American Geography.

Many of you know we have a FaceBook page named simply Washington Map Society. Recently we featured a short video prepared by the City Archives of Amsterdam which re-creates the growth of the city from 1600 to 1700. It’s like watching a map grow in front of your eyes and it was very popular with our FaceBook members. We thought you might like to see it too. Don’t worry that the intro text is Dutch; the sound track is just music. Make sure your sound is turned on for full effect. Click here to see the video.

A group of students at the University of Montana have put their cartographic skills to work to help protect the endangered tigers of a preservation area in Nepal. Formerly hindered by a lack of good maps, the rangers there have recently received a detailed map of their area built by young Montanans on the other side of the world. Click here to read more.

Doing some research in the New York Times archives recently, I came across a filler article from 24 October 1954:

          HOLLYWOOD - Drive-in theatres are now a source of comfort to airplane pilots. Since they are distinctive landmarks as seen from the “wild blue yonder,” their function as beacons was brought to the attention of the Theatre Owners of America by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. 
          As a gesture of courtesy to flying customers, the T.O.A. has requested drive-ins to advise the organization of their exact longitude and latitude so this intelligence may be included on aerial navigational charts.

The newly revitalized WMS FaceBook page continues to gain strength. At the end of September we had 199 members.  In the closing days of January we have 231. The number of postings has increased dramatically to 85 with a few days to go. (That’s individual postings, not replies or threads.) Needless to say, we have info about WMS meetings, but most of the items are about exhibits and talks, maps in the news, new or upcoming publications of interest, or just weird map stuff.  You have no idea how diverse the world of maps can be until you start looking. We understand that some folks don’t want to be on FaceBook or other social media. If, however, you are on FaceBook, by all means give it a look. Click here for the WMS FaceBook page.


Notice: 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.

There have been nice comments about the new Latitudes. I have no idea what Jon Dotson was thinking when he suggested the name, but it has philosophical appeal. Its first definition reads the angular distance of a place north or south of the earth's equator, or of a celestial object north or south of the celestial equator, usually expressed in degrees and minutes. Okay, we knew that.  We’re map geeks; it’s our job to know these things. It was the second one that sealed the deal: scope for freedom of action or thought. It gives us a way to share news, thoughts, or ideas which may fall short of Portolan material, but still be of use or interest. We’ll see what happens.