GIS Day 2014


Wednesday is GIS Day. It’s the one day of the year that GIS, geographic information systems, is front and center. But wait a minute. That really isn’t true. Every time you look for an address, get directions, allow your current location to be used for an app or want to find the nearest store, you use GIS. It’s all working behind the scenes in your favorite app, but it is there.

A geographic information system lets you store, organize, manipulate and analyze data that has a geographic component. Do you have a list of addresses you want to map?  GIS software lets you do that. Do you have census data by block group and you want to see to which groups your addresses belong? You can do that in GIS software. It lets you ask questions about your data and store the answers.  And best of all, you can make maps. That’s my favorite part of the software!



These are maps I created using the ArcGIS software. The first 2 are just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The third map answers a frequent question we get in the Evans Map Room. The last map I made just because I like combining television and maps together.

Here is a map of different GIS Day events.

If you would like to see the maps in a larger format, you can visit the Berry Library Brickway across from the Baker-Berry circulation desk.

Brahe and Blaeu

We have talked before about our luxurious hand-colored copy of the eleven-volume Blaeu Atlas, Geographia (Amsterdam, 1662), but never delved into a curious digression in the first volume. As you move along through maps of northern Europe in a fairly predictable pattern, you suddenly find yourself zeroing in on unexpected details on the island of Hvæna. There, the atlas takes the reader on a tour of Tycho Brahe’s observatory with fourteen full-page or double-page engraved illustrations.

Why this obsession?  It is likely that Joan Blaeu was giving a nod to his father Willem Blaeu who started the family mapmaking business. Willem had been a student under Brahe at Hvæna, and it was during his time with Brahe that he developed his skills constructing globes.  It is also a gesture to Joan Blaeu’s own qualifications. The attention given to Brahe’s measurement instruments suggests a certain level of technical expertise, thus elevating the already grand atlas through association.

To enjoy a walk through Brahe’s observatory at Hvæna, ask for volume 1 of Rare G1015.B48 1662.

Winter Outlook …

Next week is Halloween and my thoughts turn to … winter (ugh!). I am not a fan of winter but I tolerate it because I look forward to spring, summer and longer daylight hours. For all of you who are like me, here are a couple of maps to warn you or inform you.

Outlook_map_temp2014F_small Outlook_map_Precip_214F_small

In case you want to hear more news about winter, here is a video of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) predictions for the upcoming winter. Have fun in the snow!

Images courtesy of NOAA


Pocket Relief

Oh, what a cool little find. While looking for a good map of the White Mountains for our current exhibit, “Corresponding Friendships: Robert Frost’s Letters,” we stumbled on The Pocket Relief Map–Franconia Notch Region (R. D. Woodard, 1930). It is made of pressed plastic, and is just three and a half inches by five inches. The box has a line drawing of the Old Man of the Mountain.

What’s it for?  It is hard to imagine carrying it in your pocket for reference. You couldn’t really pull it out on a  hike and say, “Ah, now I know where I am!” Our guess is that it was just a souvenir for tourists vacationing in the area and it was never carried in anyone’s pocket.

To see it, ask for White Mountains G3741.C18 1930 W6.  The Frost exhibit is on display from now until November 1st in the Class of 1965 Galleries in Rauner.  We found an even better map for that!

North Britain or Scotland?

In the wake of the Scottish referendum, we thought we’d share a little gem in our collection that has varying degrees of connection to independence, Scotland, and Great Britain (although not to the West Lothian question). George Taylor and Andrew Skinner were Scottish surveyors from Aberdeen who initially rose to prominence through their careful mapping of the post road between London and Bath. For their next endeavor, in 1776, the two men published what amounted to the first road map ever made of Scotland.  Needless to say, this was also an important year for yet another group of oppressed colonists of England. Less than a decade later, Taylor and Skinner would journey west across the Atlantic to ply their trade in the new country of the United States of America.

The atlas consists of 62 plates, each containing three side-by-side sections of a long strip of road. All but one radiate outward from Edinburgh at a one inch to one mile scale. The atlas includes a detailed chart at the front of the book that gives the distances between each stage of the journey as well as the total distance from Edinburgh. In their explanation of the chart,Taylor and Skinner assure the nervous traveler that “There are good inns on all the Roads, with Post Chaises and Horses at every Stage, as far North as Inverness by Aberdeen,” an area with which they were well acquainted. In closing, the two express their confidence that the public road system will be soon completed in the north because “a Spirit of Improvement prevails throughout Scotland.” One might venture to say that the recent referendum suggests that such a spirit still lives on in the hearts and minds of the Scottish people, even though there may be some differences of opinion as to what form that improvement should take.

To see our copy of Taylor and Skinner’s Survey of the Roads of North Britain or Scotland, walk into Rauner and ask to see Rare G1826.P2 T3 1776. If you aren’t able to come by but would like to see more, the National Library of Scotland has scanned the book in its entirety and made it available online to the public.

Sailing to…..

Before Mercator, pilots used charts that showed the location of ports and coastal features and provided directions on how to navigate between these points of reference. Details of the coast were critical as vessels often chose to sail closer to land to mitigate potential open sea and weather hazards. These earlier maps were known as portolan charts – a name derived from the Italian – and are often fantastically detailed and depict the coastlines of the major land masses with stunning accuracy.

Our portolan chart was made by Nicolas Comberford around 1657 in Redcliffe, England and depicts the Mediterranean and Black Sea. True to the style, numerous coastal towns and cities are pinpointed and the small islands of the area are numbered and listed in tables in the interior spaces of the adjoining countries. As with most portolan charts, the interior land masses are left largely blank since the focus of the chart was navigation on the water. Unlike most portolans, Comberford has not included the standard compass lines connecting major destinations, opting instead for a more open grid to demonstrate direction and relative distance.

The chart is constructed of vellum attached to hinged and folded oak boards. Despite its use on ship, the map shows very little water staining and is brilliantly colored with gold leaf accents. Though the map apparently belonged to a Captain John Smyth, this is, alas, not the Captain Smith of Virginia fame. That Captain Smith died before the creation of this chart.

Ask for Codex 657940 to see the chart.

Try It! EVGeoCloud For Geospatial Data

Do you use geospatial data?   Ever wish you could select and download data based on geospatial parameters through a map interface?  We are now trialing EVGeoCloud, a new product from East View Cartographic. The trial lasts through the end of November  so don’t delay! EvGeoCloud

EVGeoCloud is a hosting service for geospatial data. Its interface allows you to select parts of datasets based on a selected area. East View will upload any of our purchased datasets as long as the licensing allows it.

Since the product is a hosting service, most of the data shown during the trial is not available for downloading. However, we do have access to the LandScan datasets, and you can download any portion of that data you want.

At this time, subscribers cannot upload local data. That option may become available late next year.

Take a look at this product and let us know what you think about it.   You can either use this form or just email me (Jane Quigley) or Lucinda Hall in Evans Map Room.


In 1933, George Howard Richardson became the official surveyor of the town of Littleton, NH. A native of the state of New Hampshire, George had followed in his father’s footsteps when, after graduating from Dartmouth College in 1914, he became a surveyor. He worked primarily in Coos and Grafton Counties and over the years accumulated a large collection of survey plans, not only from surveys that he conducted but also from surveys conducted by his father William, Ray T. Gile and many others. By the time of his death in 1979, the collection contained more than 3000 survey plans and plat maps covering private and public properties throughout northern New Hampshire and Vermont, including properties in the White Mountains such as the Mt. Washington Observatory and the Mt. Pleasant Hotel. Towns surveyed include Littleton, Lisbon, Haverhill, Dalton, Easton, Franconia and Bethlehem, NH.

The surveyors whose maps were collected by Richardson did not often venture south. However, between 1909 and 1918, the Richardsons spent some time in Windsor, Vermont, where they surveyed the Evarts property, the LaFountain Woolson property and the Toll Bridge property, off the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge.

In addition to the survey plans, the collection contains deeds and land descriptions – some dating back to the late 18th and early 19th century – as well as field notebooks by Richardson, William Richardson, Chester Abbot, Percy E. Smith and Ray T. Gile whose work included the setting of the boundary between New Hampshire and Massachusetts during 1891-1901.

You can find the finding aid under MS-740, The George H. Richardson Surveying Collection.

Where in the World?

Can you look at an image of a place and say where it’s from? Do different places have such distinct characteristics that you can identify them? Look at the image below. It shows locations from 4 different spots on Earth. Can you name the areas? Give it a try!

Where in the World?

To see a larger version of the images, visit the Evans Map Room.

Images courtesy of the U. S. Geological Survey. Poster courtesy of Peter Allen.


Topographic Maps vs. Relief Models

Cartography is the art and science of map making. And maps are 2-dimensional objects for a 3-dimensional world. How can a map accurately show height? It does it through color and contour lines that denote elevation and height. But there are other map objects that can show all of the dimensions of a site.

For instance, look at a map of Mount Fuji in Japan. You see the representation of a mountain. But you can’t see how high the mountain really is.

Mount Fuji








Oblique view of Mount Fuji relief model

Oblique view of Mount Fuji relief model


A relief model is a 3-dimensional map. If you look at the 2 views of the relief model of the same area, you see Mount Fuji rising from sea level. You see the snow and ice on its peak. You see how it dominates the landscape. You see the shadows the relief model creates and can imagine the ones at the actual site.

Straight down view of Mount Fuji relief model

Straight down view of Mount Fuji relief model

Relief models can make maps come alive.

Photographs courtesy of Peter Allen.