Cartography and Geography

Press Release: Denis Wood and John Fels, The Natures of Maps

January 7, 2009
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Press Release: Denis Wood and John Fels, The Natures of Maps

Any time we plan a trip, whether it’s as simple as a trek to the other side of town or as complicated as a cross-country drive, our journeys are influenced, guided, and even inspired by maps. Road maps get us to our destinations, while maps of attractions like national parks and wilderness areas entice us to include such wonders in our vacation plans. But do those maps do more than just show off the natural beauties they describe? Could there be hidden agendas at work in even a map as seemingly benign as a National Park Service map of the Grand Canyon? According to Denis Wood and John Fels, the answer is a resounding yes. Cartographers have agreed for decades that territorial or political maps are far from objective representations of reality; rather, maps can’t help but reflect the agendas and intentions of their creators. Until now, however, maps of nature—from depictions of bird migration routes to state park campground maps—have been left out of this analysis. Both researchers and map users—including many who should know better—have wrongly presumed that such maps are strictly scientific, free from the subtexts or biases that mar other maps. With The Natures of Maps, . . .

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A new look at Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs

September 9, 2008
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A new look at Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs

Both the Times Higher Education and the New Yorker‘s book blog, the Book Bench have recently published positive reviews of Anne Whiston Spirn’s, Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field. Book Bench contributor Eliza Honey writes: Daring to Look is a collection of photographs, many of them previously unpublished, taken by Dorothea Lange, in 1939, for the Farm Security Administration. Though Lange’s shots of Depression-era individuals and families are well known, many of her negatives of empty home interiors have spent the past decades in archives, until Anne Whiston Spirn, the editor of this volume, unearthed them. Like Lange’s portraits, her interiors are gentle reflections of a quiet and stark way of life. Though the book looks deceivingly like it’s meant for a coffee table, Spirn’s accompanying text reveals much more. It’s so engrossing, in fact, that, had the book not been so heavy, I would have taken it to the park during my lunch break. And from the THE: This first presentation of Lange’s 1939 photographs with their accompanying texts provides a very valuable scholarly resource. Spirn’s personal contribution, for anyone interested in Lange, comes in the third and final section, which both brings us . . .

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Finding Our Place in the World

August 21, 2008
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Finding Our Place in the World

Conventionally, people tend to thing of maps as useful tools with which to physically orient ourselves within a landscape, yet in their recent book, Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, editors James A. Ackerman and Robert W. Karrow demonstrate that throughout the ages maps have had a much greater range of utility. The August edition of the The Art Book features a review of Maps that praises the editors for their insightful exploration of maps’ varying purposes—from maps that orient us geographically, to those that orient us historically and even culturally. From the Art Book: essays by distinguished contributors break the boundaries of chronology and the limitations of conventional Western geography to consider instead a cluster of maps’ varying purposes.… The extensive first essay, ‘Finding our way’ by Akerman (organiser of a splendid Newberry exhibition on American road maps), addresses most observers’ experiences of maps, i.e. as instructions for directed travel.… Allegorical pathways, clearly charted for religious or fantasy realms, are reserved for a fine later essay, ‘Imaginary worlds’, by Ricardo Padron. Another fascinating essay, on the conceptual or thematic use of maps (including geological or astronomical maps), often with statistical graphs to convey data, is provided . . .

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Coastal cartography in context

May 15, 2008
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Coastal cartography in context

Writing for the May 15th edition of Nature, reviewer Deborah Jean Warner gives a nice summary of Mark Monmonier’s new book, Coast Lines: How Mapmakers Frame the World and Chart Environmental Change: Mark Monmonier, professor of geography at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University in New York, seeks to inform the public about how cartography and society intersect. He wishes us to look closely at maps, to recognize which features are shown or missing, and understand why. In Coast Lines, he offers an assortment of eclectic and fascinating information about how coastlines have been defined, determined and depicted, focusing on the United States in the twentieth century. Different maps and charts of the same coastal area show different cartographic coastlines. Monmonier calls our attention to four types, explaining that each is a human construct designed to serve a specific purpose, and the result of many observations and assumptions (the latter sometimes gaining the upper hand). One cartographic coastline is the high-water line visible from offshore. Another, introduced in the nineteenth century to aid safe navigation, is the low-water line. Two are more recent: storm surge lines are designed mainly for evacuation planning and flood insurance, and inundation lines describe the . . .

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Maps to close the year

December 31, 2007
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Maps to close the year

The exhibition Maps: Finding Our Place in the World will be at the Field Museum in Chicago only until January 27. Then it moves to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, where it opens on March 16. The book with the same name, though, can be visited at any time for as long as you want. Like a map of a city or river or mountain range that you once visited, or dream of visiting, the book fixes the memory or fills in the imagination. Patrick Reardon reviewed the book in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune. He called the book “a meaty work that sweeps back and forth across the centuries and millenniums, spans the continents and ranges from the micro-details of a 19th Century London neighborhood to an ancient Aztec rendering of the cosmos.” It is also a thing of beauty. Our web feature for the book presents some unusual maps. A couple of those maps recently caught the attention of a few bloggers, like the Edge of the American West, Matthew Yglesias, and Metafilter. Resolve to see the exhibit and get the book. . . .

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Figuring out how to get there

November 26, 2007
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Figuring out how to get there

William Grimes had a roundup of books about maps and geography in the New York Times last Friday. “If 90 percent of life is showing up,” said Grimes, “the other 10 percent is figuring out how to get there.” That sounds about right, based on my excursion downstate over the holiday. The books selected by Grimes range from a “throbbingly romantic novel” titled The Mapmaker’s Opera to “two books that size up the topography of the United States.” Since cartography is one of our publishing niches, we were not surprised—only relieved—to see that Grimes included Maps: Finding Our Place in the World edited by by James R. Akerman and Robert W. Karrow Jr. in his piece, as well as Hard Road West: History and Geology along the Gold Rush Trail by Keith Heyer Meldahl. Plus, he lassoes Peter Whitfield’s London: A Life in Maps which we distribute for the British Library. If maps are often on your mind, you’ll enjoy our web feature for Maps: Finding Our Place in the World. We also have an excerpt from Hard Road West. More books about maps are in our cartography and geography catalog. . . .

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Press Release: Akerman and Karrow, Maps

November 14, 2007
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Press Release: Akerman and Karrow, Maps

Maps are universal forms of communication, easily understood and appreciated regardless of culture or language. This truly magisterial book introduces readers to the widest range of maps ever considered in one volume. A companion to the most ambitious exhibition on the history of maps ever mounted in North America, Maps will challenge readers to stretch conventional thought about what constitutes a map and how many different ways we can understand graphically the environment in which we live. Collectors, historians, mapmakers and users, and anyone who has ever “gotten lost” in the lines and symbols of a map will find much to love and learn from in this book. Read the press release. Also see a special website for the book. . . .

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Festival of Maps exhibition opens tomorrow

November 1, 2007
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Festival of Maps exhibition opens tomorrow

Tomorrow, November 2, as part of the three month long Festival of Maps, the Field Museum will open the exhibit, Maps: Finding Our Place in the World. On display will be some of the most fascinating cartographic artifacts ever shown. And just in time for opening day, the Press has released a companion volume of the same name edited by exhibit curators James R. Akerman and Robert W. Karrow, Jr. Like the exhibit, the book surveys a huge range of cartographic sources to explore the many ways that maps have changed our lives and helped us understand the environment in which we live. From a review in Discover magazine: From religious pilgrimages and vacation road trips to depictions of the ocean floor and the magical landscapes of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, maps chart both physical and imaginary worlds. As geographer Denis Cosgrove explains, “world’ is a social concept … a flexible term, stretching from physical environment to the world of ideas, microbes, of sin. Arguably, all these worlds can be mapped.” And they are in this compelling and very readable companion volume to the current exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago. To find out more about the . . .

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Press Release: Smith, The Plan of Chicago

October 23, 2007
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Press Release: Smith, The Plan of Chicago

Now available in paperback— Arguably the most influential document in the history of American urban planning, Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, coauthored by Edward Bennett and produced in collaboration with the Commercial Club of Chicago, proposed many of the city’s most distinctive features. Carl Smith’s fascinating history reveals the Plan‘s central role in shaping the ways people envision the cityscape and urban life itself and points out ways the Plan continues to influence debates, even a century after its publication, about how to create a vibrant and habitable urban environment. Read the press release. . . .

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Festival of Maps

September 19, 2007
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Festival of Maps

The Chicago Tribune is running an article today about the forthcoming Festival of Maps—a three month display of “rare and important” maps from around the world to be held at more than twenty participating venues throughout Chicagoland beginning later this fall. In conjunction with the exhibition the Press is set to release a companion volume in early November, Maps: Finding Our Place in the World edited by James R. Akerman and Robert W. Karrow, Jr. Delivering a comprehensive account of the diverse ways maps have been used throughout the ages and across cultures, Maps covers much of the material featured in the exhibition, from maps “tracing the rise of the American West” to those used to track and predict the weather. Read today’s article in the Tribune or check out the exhibition’s official website at www.festivalofmaps.com to find out more about the Festival, or learn more about the companion volume, Maps, on our website. . . .

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