A weblog for members of the Canadian Cartographic Association and other individuals interested in all things cartographic

NG Maps Available On Demand

Now you can complete that National Geographic map collection that is missing the one elusive map. National Geographic has partnered with Maps.com, the self-proclaimed world’s largest map store (previously mentioned in this blog), to make its catalog of maps available for purchase. Customers can browse through the extensive National Geographic map collection, select one and have it printed and/or laminated by Maps.com. Costs vary, of course, depending on size but are generally in the area of $50 - $60 US. This doesn’t include shipping. Old musty smells of maps and magazines long packed away in someone’s attic not included.

By way of Maps-L


Maps for Canadians

As reported earlier in this blog, Natural Resources Canada is discontinuing the printing of its topographic map series. This is making many people unhappy. A website has been set up called Maps for Canadians that directs those who are upset enough about the situation to a number of recommended actions, including writing your Member of Parliament. On the bright side, those who have access to a large format printer will be able to print their own maps. Unfortunately, these printers do not go cheap and are not something that an individual would likely buy.


Map Designers' Conference

(By way of the Society of Cartographers email list)

Announcing a new British Cartographic Society event

November 17th, 2006 Glasgow.

The world of Cartography is changing beyond all recognition. It is no longer dominated by a few specialists in major companies or national organisations. The explosion of non-cartographic map makers has brought a vibrancy and freshness to the subject, the like of which has never been seen before.

This presents two opportunities. Firstly an opportunity for the cartographic profession to learn from, and hopefully to incorporate, the graphic and artistic skills so abundant in other disciplines; and to benefit from the contribution Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has made to the industry. Secondly, there is an opportunity for the cartographic profession to explain some of the principles cartographers use when making maps. Cartographers have not been making maps for over 5000 years without learning a thing or two in the process. And yet for all the skills these diverse groups have brought to bear on map making, from GIS to map-Art, there remains one crucial problem. Most people can't read the maps they produce.

For the first time in the UK, and probably worldwide, this seminar will bring together cartographic designers, and designers from the world of media and GIS, to discuss how to make maps effective, exciting, irresistible and . . . readable.

Anyone who commissions maps, or who is involved in the making of maps, whether from GIS data of the imagination of the artist will be welcome at 'The Map Designers’ seminar. The seminar is designed for architects, surveyors, tourism, foresters, utilities, earth scientists, cartographers, graphic artists, and government; in fact every branch of society that uses or creates maps.

We would especially like to welcome students from Scotland, the North East and further afield, with our incredible deal - £15 for a once in a lifetime seminar! This amazing concessionary price is also open to all on proof of eligibility, i.e. unemployed, retired, BCS Associate Members etc...

So here it is:-

The Lighthouse
Scotland's Centre for Architecture and Design Glasgow
17th NOVEMBER 2006


Chaired by Michael Wood OBE. Aberdeen University.
President of the Society of Cartographers.
Past President of the International Cartographic Association, and the British Cartographic Society.


Alan Collinson FBCart.S Geo-Innovations.
Co-Convener of the British Cartographic Society Design Group:
The Principles of Cartographic Design, Cartographic Impressionism and Map Art.

Mary Spence MBE FBCart.S, Global Mapping.
President of the British Cartographic Society:
The Qualities of Better Mapping.

Dave Barbour FBCart.S, Stirling Surveys. International Award Winner:
Maps People Can Read Easily. Design for Recreation and Orienteering.

Wendy Price, Wendy Price Cartographic Services:
Map Making as an Art.

Susie Jones FBCart.S, Senior Lecturer at the School of Military Survey.
Co-Convener of the British Cartographic Society Design Group:
GIS and Map Design.

Paul Stickley Head of Media Design, Glasgow School of Art:
To be confirmed.

OPEN FORUM: Map Designers Talking.

Cost: £50 (BCS and SOC members £45, Students and concessions £15).

Details and booking from Lynda Bailey
Cartographer and Map Librarian
FCO Library
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH


Information Visualization

Information Visualization is an irregularly published e-zine that discusses information visualization topics. Though very few of its issues discuss mapping, many of its subjects would be of interest to cartographers. The latest issue, for instance, discusses colour and colour usage. The e-zine’s contributors are many but those most well-known to cartographers include Edward Tufte and Alan MacEarchren.

All 183 issues of the e-zine, available in both English and Spanish, are available online. Subscription to the e-zine is free.


MapQuest Drops Paper Maps

The MercuryNews has a short story about Mapquest dropping its printed map publishing business to focus solely on its digital presence. “MapQuest published its first road map for free distribution at gas stations in 1967 when it launched as a division of R.R. Donnelley & Sons in Chicago. The company produces more than 1.5 billion pages of printed maps every year.”



Mark Harrower of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has worked with Cindy Brewer on the popular ColorBrewer tool. He is currently working on another cartographic tool called MapShaper that will simplify shapefiles according to one of 3 algorithms. The Flash tool allows the user to upload a shapefile, set the simplification parameters, and view and compare the results with the original file. The result can be savedas a shapefile. The tool is currently in beta mode. Check the MapShaper blog for updates.

According to a University of Wisconsin-Madison news story, “Harrower has created a fleet of public domain software programs that help mapmakers with fundamental tasks such as selecting colors, filtering data, representing change and generalizing lines.” Other interesting tools of his include Visual Benchmarks that looks at animated maps and EarthSystemsVisualizer, an animated tool focusing on climate systems (works in IE).


Geographical Radio

Wondering what’s playing on the radio in your neighbourhood? Or on the other side of the country? Yes.com has put together a simple real-time Flash map of 150 radio stations that shows what songs each station is playing. (Currently only U. S. stations)

By way of information aesthetics


Two New Sites

Two new cartography /geospatial sites now grace the Internet: Cartography Online and Free GIS Data GeoBlog.

Cartography Online intends to provide news, forums and links to the cartography community. The offerings are currently sparse (since it is new) and it seems to provide some competition for existing sites (e.g. CartoTalk in particular and other news-focused geo-spatial sites). No advertsiements here (yet).

Free GIS Data GeoBlog is a blog but utilizes Blogger’s new labels (tags - something I have yet to do) to categorize geospatial data sources by geographic area. A number of data sources are already listed, most of them American. Glenn of GISUser has initiated this effort.


NYC Transit Maps

NYCSubway.org has a number of maps of New York City bus lines and subway lines. These maps include scans of route maps dating back to 1888 and come in various sizes, mostly in jpeg format. Also included are maps of track locations that would probably be more of interest to the railroad aficionado.

See also previous entry Subway Map by Committee.

By way of Plep


Leventhal Map Center

The Boston Public Library’s Norman B. Leventhal Map Center has a collection of over 200,000 maps and 5,000 atlas, some of which are available online at a splashy new site. There is much to explore here, including a couple of beautifully put together online tours (Faces and Places and Journeys of the Imagination - blogged about here earlier), a map of the month ( this month it is a map of Boston from 1777), a focus on maps in the news (currently it is an indepth look at Iraq using maps), and, of course, various maps from the collections. All maps are in Zoomify format and the highest resolution is quite impressive. Many maps are available online; the search tool is perhaps the best way to make your way through this collection. Happily this collection also includes recently produced maps.

See also Designorati’s post on the Map Center.

By way of MapHist


Changes Afoot for the Blog

The CCAblog is now approaching 1 1/2 years of age and regular attracts more than 500 people a day on weekdays. There are many regular readers that provide positive feedback, suggest links and items of interest. To date, it has been pretty much a solo effort, driven by a personal love of maps and an interest in new technologies and developments in the field.

Because of an upcoming change in employment circumstances I am afraid that I will no longer be able to dedicate as much time to it as I currently do. As well, since my new employer is a private company, there are some concerns of a potential conflict of interest.

I would very much like to see the blog continue. To that end, I am seeking a person or persons who would be willing to assist me in maintaining the blog. Interested individuals would need to be a member of the Canadian Cartographic Association (this being the CCA’s web log - membership is a mere $90 a year, tax deductible in Canada, at least - pdf form here), have an interest in new developments, a love of all things cartographic, and be willing to spend some time each day searching for items of interest and writing about them. Such a commitment need not be as time consuming as my own; with a number of interested people it might require only 15 or 30 minutes each a day.

If you are interested in seeing this web log continue or would like more information, feel free to contact me at ccablog@yahoo.ca.

In the mean time, I will continue to post as much as possible; just expect a little less in volume, at least for the short term. (And, for those of you who know me and want to know what I will be up to, drop me a note!)


Broer Map Library

The Broer Map Library is a cooperative endeavour that seeks to provide libraries and other organizations with online access to a large map collection. Founded in 2002 and housed in Ellington, Connecticut, the map collection has grown through donations of unused maps to its current size of 40,000. The collection has a wide variety of street maps, roads maps, historical and military maps from the past 300 years. The goal of the collection is to expand to include over 100,000 maps in the next five years.

Some of these maps are available online in a Zoomify format. These are organized geographically. The online collection is rather spotty and haphazard and map scans are sometimes missing parts or edges (for more complete scans, an email request can be made). Nevertheless, the online collection is expectyed to grow and is worth keeping an eye on. The site states that free registration is required to access the maps but I found this not to be the case.

By way of COMPASS


This week seems to be the week for users of free geographic viewing software. Earlier this week Live Local released an upgrade that allows users to create and save their own data online (not at all as GIS friendly items but only as “dumb” graphics) and georeference existing raster maps (using MSR MapCruncher).

Yesterday Google released a version 4 (beta) of its popular Google Earth software. The listing of new features can be found on its website and includes alot of eye candy for the masses (e.g. 3D buildings) but also some features that would interest more geospatially savvy users (e.g. WMS capabilities and time sensitive image overlays).

And yet to be released is ESRI’s entry in the field, ArcGIS Explorer. James Fee expects this to come out this week but, as he reminds us on his blog, he doesn’t work for ESRI so that “any day” could mean this week or next week or the week after. Even more so than Google Earth, Live Local or World Wind, this looks like it will be very GIS friendly.

All in all, there are enough free tools out there to keep any geospatial nerd happy . . . for a while.


Live Local Steps Up

Microsoft’s Live Local has recently been upgraded (already reported on by the Map Room and others) , making it easier to draw one’s own points, lines and areas on the supplied base map. The new tools, discussed at length in the Windows Live Local blog, make it easy to add, save and share user drawn features, including photos, links and comments. Now, if only you could add in already existing geospatial files like ESRI’s Arcweb . . . .


Park Symbols

In the map creation process, a sizable amount of time can be devoted to making the right symbols. It is always worthwihle, then, to be able to draw on the work of others when possible. The U. S. National Park Service has a number of symbols and patterns available in Adobe Illustrator and PDF formats.

See also previous posting on Pictograms.

By way of The Map Room


Breathing Earth

Breathing Earth is a Flash map of the world that displays the carbon dioxide emission levels, birth and death rates of each country in “real-time.” Mousing over a country brings up population, emission levels and birth and death rates for that country. An effective and interesting map, complete with sound effects.

By way of information aesthetics


Google Maps Past and Present

By now, the latest updates to Google Maps is old news, already covered by the likes of Google Maps Mania and Google Earth Blog. There have been siginificant updates to the collection of high resolution images covering parts of the United States, Japan, Norway and New Zealand.

Perhaps equally interesting is being able to compare between various Google Maps releases. Mike Williams has set up a webpage that enables users to compare two versions of Google Maps - either in satellite or in map mode. He has provided me with a listing of when the updates occurred, at least for the past 6 releases (all gleaned from the Google Earth blog):
  • Satellite 5 : Mar 23 2006
  • Satellite 6 : Apr 19 2006
  • Satellite 7 : Jun 08 2006 Google Earth, Jun 21 2006 Google Maps
  • Satellite 8 : Jul 18 2006
  • Satellite 9 : Jul 27 2006
  • Satellite 10 : Sep 08 2006
Google Earth and Google Maps were updated coincidentally in most cases in the past year. This is where some metadata would come in handy. The above listing tells users when imagery became available in Google Maps but fails to tell them when the imagery was taken. That would make Mike Williams’ side by side comparison page even more useful.

By way of Map GIS News Blog for UK, Europe and World Maps


Improving Map Skills

The UK’s Ordnance Survey has had a program in place for a few years in which they provide 11 year olds with a free map. For the past five years, the OS has handed out, on request by teachers, a 1:25,000 Explorer Map to students for their own keeping. The program has had a desired effect on map reading skills and geography knowledge, according to a number of studies. “Altogether, 17 separate studies have been carried out into the progress of the initiative, showing that it has significantly fostered the teaching and learning of geography and extended pupils' understanding and enthusiasm for using maps. The research found that since the launch of the initiative:
  • the number of pupils confident in their understanding of maps has doubled;
  • the number of pupils who enjoy using maps has trebled;
  • the proportion of children who perceive maps as important has doubled; and
  • 98% of teachers say the scheme had been ‘beneficial’ to geography teaching and learning in their school. ”
The studies also showed that children who walked or biked to school had better map reading skills than those who were driven. As well as being a great educational program, this initiative is also a smart - albeit longterm - marketing approach.

Read the story in politics.co.uk (IE only; this page doesn’t like Firefox).


Mapping European Competitiveness

The European Spatial Planning Observation Network engages in “applied research and studies on territorial development and spatial planning (as) seen from a European perspective in support of policy development.” Which means that, in an attempt to provide the European Union and its members states with the information they need to make the proper policy decisions, EPSON produces a number of statistical sets and maps. Most of the maps it produces focuses on Europe, naturally, but there are a few that take a broader, international perspective.

A couple of reports in pdf format provide a number of interesting maps. Diversity in European Territory (November 2004; pdf; 9.16 MB) provides maps on the growth of gdp in Europe, changes in population, and flooding potential, all broekn out at a subnational level for EU member states. A more recent report, Mapping Regional Competitiveness and Cohesion (March, 2006; pdf; 12.35 MB) includes maps on population growth, competitiveness and human well-being. In both reports, a page long description of accompanies each map. For those who need more detail, descriptions and maps, there is the hefty 228 page report from the first EPSON Scientific Conference (pdf; 40.99 MB) that includes many more maps.

By way of Connotea


Mapping Medieval Townscapes

At the end of the thirteenth century, King Edward I of England sought to urbanize and control the Welsh by establishing a number of fortified towns. No contemporary maps of these towns exist so Keith Lilley, Chris Lloyd and Steve Trick of the Queen’s University Belfast put together a set of maps of thirteen towns that depict them as they were when they were first establsihed. “For each of the thirteen towns covered by the atlas there are three ‘core’ maps. Each is a detailed town plan showing particular features that make up its urban layout. The first core map contains proven and substantiated urban features, while the second adds in those features that are less certain and more conjectured. The third map builds on the first and second, and is an attempt at a ‘reconstruction’ of the town’s plan circa 1300.” Maps are available in an interactive format and as static jpgs or pdfs (go to the downloads section). Supplementary images of the towns, including photos, old, non-contemporary maps and plans and aerial photos are also provided.

By way of urban cartography


Mapping the Seabed

The Globe and Mail has a short story on the efforts to map a portion of the Atlantic Ocean floor off the coast of New York, specifically, what is called the Husdon Canyon. Using a multi-beamed sonar system, staff with the USGS mapped a 160 kilometre by 100 kilometre portion of the seabed at a scale of 1:300,000. Two hefty pdfs of the maps (sheet 1 is 12 MB; sheet 2 is 30 MB) are available from the USGS for download. Sheet 1 contains a lengthy description of the methods and process used to map the area - also available on the project website.

Expect more of this to happen in the near future as land-based natural resources become increasingly exhausted.


Subway Map by Committee

New York City has mapped its subways in its own way, not following Beck’s London Underground map that has become the unofficial style standard for subway maps the world over. Instead of a simplified schematics with subway lines running at specified angles, the Metro Transit Authority subway map shows lines in their approximate geographic location. John Tauranac headed a committee in 1979 that designed the current New York City subway map (now, seemingly, a work of art).

The New York Times has an article
on Tauranac and his map which evolved out of the negative response that New Yorkers had to a 1972 schematic map in the traditon of Beck’s map: “Almost as soon as Mr. Vignelli’s (schematic) map arrived at stations, people started complaining about its failure to describe the city’s geography. Tourists were getting off the subway at the bottom of Central Park and trying to stroll to the top, for example, expecting a 30-minute walk. Mr. Tauranac, who at the time was writing guide books for the M.T.A., criticized the Vignelli map for throwing out what he called the ‘cartographic verities.’” The map that Tauranc’s committee produced in 1979, “seven years after the publication of Mr. Vignelli’s design, showed more geographical information than any previous New York subway map. It was the first since the 1930’s to reproduce the street grid.”

Included with the newspaper article is a reproduction of a 1930s subway map.


Redrawing the Middle East Map

In the Middle East, any changes to national boundaries on the map is sure to meet up with unhappiness and anger from someone. Even not changing the map is sure to make someone unhappy (think of those who do not officially recognioze Israel, for instance). The June issue of Armed Forces Journal suggests redrawing the map of the Middle East in order to promote stability and peace in the area since, it argues, the current boundary alignment does not lend itself to such. The proposal may have its merits but there are enough nations and individuals who would be opposed to it to prevent it from occurring. The proposal would also leave the area virtually unrecognizable with only a few states retaining their current boundaries.

By way of MapHist


Online Collabrative Mapping

Online mapping gets easier every day. EditGrid is an online spreadsheet application that allows users to share and edit the same spreadsheet. It also has an add-on feature that allows the spreadsheet to be mapped to Google Map or Google Earth, provided that location data is available. The add-on has the ability to map addresses but it didn’t seem to work for the addresses I tried. Below is a spreasheet I created . . .
Online Spreadsheet by user/pheersink.

and mapped:

Note that viewers can edit and add to the spreadsheet and see the results mapped. Try it.

By way of Digitally Distributed Environments and Digital Geography


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