Posts

Written History Needs Maps

Guest post by Pieter S. Burggraaf, 2015

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.

– From the pen of Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911)

The telling of history needs illustrative maps. In a rather simple view, history is the movement of people across geography in the past. Henry Walker and Don Bufkin captured this idea in their wonderful reference book Historical Atlas of Arizona. According to these authors, “History is the story of man—his actions, his comings and goings, and his settlements. As most of mankind’s actions and travels and the places” where men and women settled are “controlled by natural settings—terrain, climate, geography, and even geology—an understanding of the land is essential to an understanding of history.”(1)

Unfortunately, in so many books today about historic events, and even many of the classic books of yesterday, the text usually screams for a map to illustrate where events happened and what the people of the times thought they knew about the lay of the land. In many written histories, the maps used seem to have been an afterthought with authors or publishers plugging-in whatever they could find. Many times, the maps used do not provide the details that are necessary to support the text where the maps are called out. Often the maps used are disconnected from the period of history being discussed. Or, large maps are crammed into a small book format rendering them illegible.

When I began writing The Walker Party, The Revised Story my goal was to put equal effort into the many maps that I felt the work needed. It took some time for me to get map-making right—almost six months—but I eventually taught myself some basic cartography and developed techniques that suited my limited skills.

So, I have created each map in this book to fit legibly on a book-size page. Where possible, I have based the background geography and the positions of rivers, towns, and other geographic locations upon a period map. Each of my maps includes notation about its source. In addition, some of the maps in this book include reproductions of the original hachures—the classic symbols for representing geologic relief in cartography—from the source map.

Readers who are familiar with the areas depicted on the maps in this book will undoubtedly find misrepresentations compared to today’s maps. These should not be considered errors as such, but rather indicative of the incomplete knowledge of the territories of New Mexico and Arizona at the time. This will help the reader understand why the people in this story were often off by many miles when describing where they were or where they were going, or in many cases simply had no clue as to their whereabouts.

Finally, I have written extended captions that enable each map to stand alone with its intended information. I believe that you will find the maps that accompany this revised, more expansive story about the Walker party very informative, and I trust that the text will be equally rewarding.

by Pieter S. Burggraaf, 2015

Notes for Written History Needs Maps:
(1) Henry P. Walker, Don Bufkin, Historical Atlas of Arizona, Second Edition (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,1986), iii.

Excerpt from The Walker Party, The Revised Story: Across New Mexico and Arizona Territories and up the Hassayampa River, 1861-1863, by Pieter S. Burggraaf, available from Amazon.com. Used with permission. Read more about the book and view more of the maps in the Ortelius Showcase.

[Footnote to my readers: This article originally posted on the Mapdiva.com website, I thought it surely worth reposting. Forgive the shameless reference to my own commercial ventures.]

Maps In Modern Web Design: Showcase and Examples from Smashing Magazine

In a world where digital mapping is exploding, Zach Dunn offers an excellent review of different types of web maps and their various purposes.

His article, Maps In Modern Web Design: Showcase and Examples (Smashing Magazine) explores existing trends, conventions and the possible future of interactive maps online.

This isn’t a lesson in cartography, rather a review of the important purposes that maps can serve in modern web design. Three main areas seem to represent the majority of tasks:

  1. Navigation and directions,
  2. Show relationships and trends geographically,
  3. Show points of interest.

Geared primarily toward a web-designer audience, this article is good review for GIS specialists and cartographers preparing maps for online content. Zach describes the different ways to navigate online maps (drill down for information, timeline, zoom, before-and-after, and points of interest), looks at future trends, and provides a nice showcase of maps for inspiration.

Atlas of Explorations for the Pacific Railroad: Giving Some Love for the Hand-Drawn Map

Who doesn’t love the artistry of a hand-drawn map? I’ve been looking at some fine examples lately and wanted to share a few of my personal favorites.

I’m starting with Elbie Bentley’s “Atlas of Explorations for the Pacific Railroad” because it represents a mastery of hand-drawn cartographic technique – particularly hachuring – seldom seen today. I’m also a big fan of multi-media when it comes to mapping, and Elbie seems to effortlessly merge her hand-drawn maps and digital cartography with much artistry and clarity.

Akin to the fine tradition in architectural drawing, combining hand-drawn techniques with digital should (in my opinion) be more common practice in modern cartography. I was first introduced to Elbie’s work this fall at NACIS. Elbie was kind enough afterward to share more of her work with me. This talented young cartographer has produced an integrated narrative piece of expedition through a beautilfully illustrated, self-published, “Atlas of Explorations for the Pacific Railroad” (see a preview of the Atlas on sale at Blurb). Okay, I’ve been officially sucked-in by the multi-media maps and narrative approach of the Atlas. I find it refreshing and inspiring, not only by the well designed content and articulation of the narrative, but also the craftsmanship and technique employed.

Here is a summary from the Blurb website: “The Gunnison-Beckwith expedition for the Pacific Railroad (1853-1854) produced a particularly intriguing report containing adventure, illustration, and topographic presentation. The intensity of the stories and the beauty of the artistic products contained within the reports remain, however, largely unknown. This atlas represents this significant historical event in an a set of maps organized to be read like a novel. The cartographic language of the nineteenth century topographic explorers is also mimicked in each map to recreate their world of incorporated illustrations, observation, and text.” Elbie is a recent graduate of Ohio University – Department of Geography.

Festival of Maps at the Chicago Field Museum

I can’t for my next road trip to Chicago (which will definitely be soon). Festival of Maps Chicago opens this weekend and runs all the way through January 2009. Over 30 cultural and scientific institutions are involved in dozens of exhibits, lectures, and events that “display humanity’s greatest discoveries and the maps that record our boldest explorations.” I’m especially looking forward to a visit to the Field Museum’s exhibit “Maps: Finding Our Place in the World” which runs from November 2, 2007 — January 27, 2008.