Off the Map

Happy 500th Birthday, Gerard Mercator

March 5th 2012

Mercator is aging well, or at least his maps are. He was a most remarkable and famous map and globe maker, known for his world atlases (in fact, he coined the word “atlas”), his piety, and his global projection–hey, Google uses it, so Mercator’s still the man! If you want background information, visit everybody’s go-to site or read Nicholas Crane’s great biography, Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet (NY: Henry Holt, 2003).

Or, if you’re in the NYC vicinity, attend some birthday parties. The first is the New York Map Society’s monthly lecture (FREE!), this coming Saturday, March 11, at 2:30 pm, 6th floor of the Mid-Manhattan Library.  Our speaker is renowned map scholar Mark Monmonier, talking about the problems inherent in map projections, starting with Mercator’s. (In case you don’t know, here’s the problem: the earth is round, maps are flat). After the meeting, we’ll cross 5th Ave. to the Schwartzman Building,  the main library with the lions in front, where Geospatial Librarian Matt Knutzen will show us original Mercator atlases. Aside from his importance as a mapmaker, Mercator’s maps are incredibly beautiful–beautiful digitally, but more beautiful in person.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! There will also be an exhibit of Mercator maps and globes in Room 117–the splendid map room–from March 13th to September 29th. FREE! Libraries are FREE!

A Cloud in the Firmament

May 12th 2011

No, this is not a bad weather report. Cartographic historian John Cloud is traveling north from DC to give a free talk at the New York Public Library at 2:30 this Saturday (April 14th 2011) sponsored by the New York Map Society, on whose board I sit (have I said that I’m in charge of programming? Recommend a speaker if you know a good one; I aim to please).  John’s one of the best map speakers I’ve ever heard; furthermore, HE’S A ROPER, a little something he learned growing up in West Texas, which makes him–aside from his great oratorical skills–the coolest cartographic historian ever.  Below are particulars:

John Cloud holds a PhD. in geography from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he wrote a dissertation on the geographic applications of the declassified CORONA reconnaissance satellite system. He is now the NOAA historian of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey, the oldest element of NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) which makes NOAA the oldest scientific agency in the US government.  The agency began in 1807 as the Survey of the Coast, under a plan devised by the Swiss emigrant Ferdinand Hassler and accepted by President Thomas Jefferson. From the beginning, Hassler’s Survey was centered in, on, and around “New York Bay and Harbor and the Environs.” as Hassler termed it. Therefore, it is appropriate for NOAA people to return now and again to the ancestral homeland of the agency, here in “the Environs” of New York Bay and Harbor.

2 March Map Events in Manhattan

March 8th 2011

Come to the New York Public Library at 2:30 this coming Saturday (March 12) to hear John Woram–fellow New York Map Society board member, explorer, cartographic expert and author of many books–discuss “Putting Tierra del Fuego on the Map.”  John always laces history and scholarship with humor, and is thus able to keep an audience awake and happy for an hour and a half. The lecture–free and open to the public– is sponsored by the New York Map Society; read details here.

Tuesday, March 22nd at 6:30–As part of Asia Week, The Korea Society is sponsoring a lecture entitled “Mapping Identity: Antiquarian Korean Maps of the MacLean Collection” by curator Richard Pegg. Here’s a description:  “Richard Pegg, Asian art curator of Chicago’s MacLean Collection, examines Korean maps in a variety of formats, the challenges faced by cartographers, and the formation of multiple identities in Korea during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The MacLean Collection, housed in a private museum outside Chicago, focuses on the cultures of Korea, China, and Southeast Asia.”  The lecture costs $20 if you make reservations ahead; add $5 if you buy a ticket at the door. For more info, see The Korea Society website–lots of other interesting events there.


February 27th 2011

Would you like to make a cool little round map ? I’d like to teach you how–free, in my Durham CT studio, from 2-5 pm on Sunday, March 27th, followed by wine and cheese (what fool gives a workshop with NO SNACKS?) With Matt Knutzen, the New York Public Library’s Geospatial Librarian (and cartographer/artist), I gave such an autumn workshop at the New York Public Library as part of their Crafternoon series. It was fun–50 attendees made all kinds of clever and meaningful maps–like the guy who mapped his kitchen from his cat’s perspective, or the young woman who mapped romantic locations in NYC as an anniversary present for her husband. I’d like to test-drive a more intimate studio workshop, limited to 10 attendees. Reserve a spot with me:

Here’s the first round map I ever made, Greg’s World of Burritos (2007), which some of you may be just plain old sick of, I parade it around so much.  But it’s a good model for you nascent mapmakers: it’s simple, low-palette, and small.

Googley-eyed Speaker, January 8th

December 29th 2010

Come to the New York Public Library at 2:30 on Saturday, January 8th, to hear Jesse Friedman discuss Google Maps. I met Jesse (whom I’d actually describe asbright-eyed rather than googley-eyed), a Product Marketing Manager for Google, when I was a speaker at the 2010 Gel Conference–I like his intelligence and enthusiasm, and am pleased that he accepted the New York Map Society’s invitation to speak.  Visit the map society website for particulars.


May 8, 2:30 pm: New York Map Society

May 5th 2010

On Saturday, Matt Knutzen, Geospatial Librarian for the The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division at the New York Public Library, will speak at the New York Map Society’s monthly meeting, held at the NYPL.  Read details on the Map Society’s website. Open to the public.  While you’re there, visit the beautiful map room (Room 117) and the current map exhibit, Mapping New York’s Shoreline–don’t procrastinate, because the exhibit ends on June 26.


Save the Date: April 10th Talk at the New York Public Library

March 23rd 2010

I’m giving a talk at the New York Public Library (the main building at 42nd and 5th, in the lower auditorium) with Roger Panetta, with whom I share the same views of history and the value of original documents (well, maps, of course) in education. Please come–no registration necessary, and no entrance fee.  The lecture is sponsored by the New York Map Society.Although we’re targeting educators, Roger and I think our observations will interest anyone intrigued by maps.

Saturday, April 10th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Breaking Borders: The New Map Scene
and what it means to Education

Connie Brown: “Mining Maps”

Mapmaker and owner of Redstone Studios, Ms. Brown will discuss the convergence of satellite mapping and the internet, and how the rise of cultural cartography creates a map explosion providing resources, creative inspiration, and tools for critical thinking. She will present new ways to read maps, explore the exuberant proliferation of serious and playful maps on the internet, the use of map imagery in fine arts, and the redemptive value of making maps by hand.

Roger Panetta: “Panoramic Maps and Reading the Landscape”

Fordham University Visiting Professor of History, Dr. Panetta will discuss the ways in which Wade & Croome’s 1846 Hudson River Panorama provided an engaging way to view the Hudson River landscape and became a rich tool for classroom instruction. For about one dollar—a bit more for a colored version—mid-nineteenth century Hudson River steamboat passengers could buy this small fold-out map to guide them along their river journey.


Go Forth, Little Map

March 11th 2010

Some of my maps hit the road, see the country. For example, a print of The Hudson River and its Watershed, commissioned for the Beacon Institute in 2007, is part of the New York Public Library’s current map exhibit, “Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609-2009” curated by Alice Hudson, retired chief of the library’s impressive map collection.  See a review in Talking Science.  The exhibit, in the Gottesman Exhibit Hall of the Stephen A.  Schwartzman Building (the main library at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue), will be up until June 26th. The 6 x 8’ original is on loan to the Albany Institute, a museum of history and culture, as part of its exhibit entitled “Hudson River Panorama:  400 Years of History, Art, and Culture.”