Wednesday, 11 March 2015

President's Bulletin for February 2015

Last month we announced the joint event with the Society of Cartographers in York, in September, and preparations are now well under way for this. The “Call for Contributions” has been issued and closes on 20th March. We have called it a “Call for Contributions” rather than a “Call for Papers” as we are looking for a variety of formats this year. If you have a Paper that you would like to propose then we would love to hear from you or, equally, if you would like to run a more interactive Workshop, then please submit your proposal via The topics for this year are:
·    Neo-Cartography
·    3D Mapping
·    Mapping Yorkshire
·    Military Mapping
·    OpenSource Projects
·    Maps on Apps
·    Hand drawn maps
·    Planning for Change (Transport, Urban, Green)
·    An Open Category – “What’s New” – anything else mappy, new and innovative

A very important element of the BCS Symposium is the Annual Awards Ceremony, which is part of the Gala Dinner celebrations. These Awards recognise excellence in cartography in all its forms ranging from traditional paper maps to mapping apps on smartphones. Entries are open until 30th April, so if you have produced a great map since 1st May 2014 then please submit it for the Awards and if you have seen a great looking map then please encourage the producer to send it in. We accept entries from all over the globe as long as they have been produced in the last 12 months – for full details of the Awards, the Rules (Updated Rules for the John C Bartholomew Award) and how to enter, please visit Last year the overall BCS Award winner was showcased in Stanfords window in London, so if you would like to see your map there as well then you only have a few weeks left to enter.

Cartography on the Web

As the BBC reported, “The Times History of the World in Maps” has recently been published and if you enjoyed the BCS 50th Anniversary book, then this will be a “must have” purchase. Lavishly illustrated, it stretches from documents containing maps produced by ancient civilisations all the way through to the modern day. One of my favourites is the oval map of the battle of Gettysburg. Clear and simple, despite being a static representation of a battle that raged over three days, it manages to convey the terrain that was to play such a key role in the outcome:

It amazes me the number of times you hear about the “death of the paper map” and then

shortly afterwards about its “resurrection”. Recent press reports confirm that sales of OS paper maps have risen recently with 2014 figures showing sales up by 3%. A few thousand miles away in Cuba, the paper map is very much alive and well. With a growing tourist industry, designer Stephan Van Dam has designed paper maps specifically with the tourist in mind for a country where internet access is by no means readily available – about 5% of the island is covered. So if you turn up in Havana with your map app, you may we in for a bit of a rude awakening.

Forget all the debate about ‘becksploitation’ and worry instead about what could be happening to the London Underground Map this year. The handy pocket tube map, loved by many and collected by a fair few as well, is set to undergo some major changes in 2015 and with TFL taking over services and the growth of Crossrail, is the current format of the pocket map going to be too small to cope? Londonist has an intriguing video outlining the changes and the way that they could be incorporated. 

Loads of map related links on this site and the reason I chose it was for the piece on mapping anniversaries. Google Maps is 10 years old this year and in a relatively short space of time has done a great job by raising awareness of the importance of mapping in a digital age. Whilst we may have been critical of its style and portrayal in the early days, its inclusion last year as one of MapCarte’s 365 notable maps shows that it has truly “come of age”. Having been around a little longer, and still as powerful and popular as ever, National Geographic celebrates its Centenary in 2015

Ordnance Survey has recently undergone some significant changes, announcing plans to become a Government Owned Company or GovCo, redesigning its logo and just into March finally announcing its new Chief Executive. With the news that Nigel Clifford has been appointed as the new CE still relatively hot off the press, most column inches and twitter debate was devoted to the rebranding exercise which seemed to divide opinion. It also spawned a parody Twitter account “British Survey” which is irreverently funny and has made me smile on a number of occasions.

Special Interest Groups

This month I am spotlighting the Historical Military Mapping Special Interest Group, which does very much what it says on the can. This SIG would really benefit from some direct support from members and the Convener, Dr John Peaty, would love to hear from anyone who would be willing to get involved as either Secretary or Newsletter Editor for the Group. Last year The Group organised a very successful Bomber Command study tour to Lincolnshire which took in visits to East Kirkby Airfield, the home of the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby, the visitor centre at RAF Scampton, as well as several “off the beaten track” venues thanks to the support of Phil Bonner the Aviation Development Officer at Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire.

This year the group is crossing the channel to visit First World War battlefields and will be organising a workshop at York. John has also recently been in touch with Simon Bendry at UCL, who is the national co-ordinator of the school centenary visits to the Western Front battlefields. He wants to meet because one of the things that the schools are crying out for is trench maps and BCS will investigate how we can become involved.

And finally…

Well, nobody guessed that the BBC quote in the last bulletin, “… a thing of beauty, with a wonderfully tightly packaged rear end” actually referred to the new McLaren F1 car for the 2015 season.

Pete Jones MBE FBCart.S CGeog

11th March 2015


Twitter: @geomapnut

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

President’s Bulletin for January 2015

A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes and I can now announce that the 2015 BCS Symposium will be held in York on 9th and 10th September. The Programme Committee is delighted to announce that this year our Symposium has been combined with the Society of Cartographers’ Summer School and will be the:

BCS – SoC Conference 2015 entitled ‘Mapping Together’

Full details will be available on both Societies’ websites shortly and a call for papers and workshop suggestions is available at, so if you would like to be involved please make sure that you register your interest early. We have held joint events in the past, the last being at Reading in 2003. As in previous years, there will be a day for Special Interest Group activities on Tuesday 8th September including a Mapathon organised by the GIS SIG. Last year this was based on data supplied by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The Map Curators Group and the Historical Military Mapping Group are also planning a joint event. The BCS-SoC Conference will run on Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th September and the Annual Golf Tournament for the President’s Golden Ball will be held on Friday 11th September.

Have you produced any stunning cartography in the past 12 months? If so, we would love to see it and hope that you are considering entering it for the BCS Awards. Any product generated since 1st May 2014 is eligible and there are four separate categories to enter: The Stanfords Award; The OS Open Data Award; The John C Bartholomew Award; and The Avenza Award. The winners in each category then go head to head for the overall BCS Award, last year won by Lovell Johns for their Historic Map of York. Additionally there are young peoples’ awards for New Mapmakers and Schools. National Geographic who sponsored the New Mapmaker Award have withdrawn their sponsorship this year and it will be sponsored in the interim by the BCS until we can find a replacement sponsor. I would like to record my thanks to National Geographic for sponsoring the Award for many years and we are sorry to lose them.

Cartography on the web

A few months ago I posted a Victorian era map showing travel times from London around the world as colour bands on a world map. I did challenge anyone to produce an updated version and whilst nobody has yet done so, Ben Hennig at Oxford University, well known for his cartograms, has produced a map showing the world’s most remote locations. As I have been to Thule Air Base in Northern Greenland, it looks like I can claim to have visited one of the world’s most remote places.

Quite a good little application if you want to include some basic maps in presentations etc... and it is free. Details can be found at where there are maps of a few regions with more due to be added. The regional breakdown of the UK is interesting and might be more useful if it was based on counties, but it remains a simple resource for schools and beginners.
I think we all knew this anyway but the power and importance of mental maps is pulled out quite clearly in this article

GPS horror stories are well known but the consistent improvement in satnav capabilities and ironing out the nonsensical mistakes are making them more reliable. However, total reliance on a disembodied voice on your dashboard can be a mistake if you suddenly lose signal. The importance of actually knowing where you are remains paramount and even if you don’t have a paper map or road atlas to hand, the mental map based on the pre-planning of your journey and understanding where you should be can be a lifesaver.

One of the most recognisable representations of London is via its underground network, where distortions to locations aid clarity and interpretation. London Boroughs have now been given the ‘square’ treatment and I think it actually works well as a means of conveying complex information in a simple way, removing the geographical size differences of the boroughs whilst retaining the correct relative orientation in most cases. You can check out some of the variations at Even if you are familiar with London Boroughs however, are you familiar with all the new names for certain parts of London?,%20Mapped
To those of you who will miss the retiring Cartographic Journals editorials, fear not! There is a bonus one available via the carto nerd blog spot Ken highlights the role that cartography and cartographers can play and that we are not just there to create “pretty pictures”. When you see some of the examples of epic failures at this site, you can clearly see why our cartographic voice needs to heard louder and more clearly than ever before.

Special Interest Groups

It would appear that one of the ‘best kept secrets’ of the BCS might be the Special Interest Groups (SIGs), so over the next few months I will be highlighting the activities of each to make members, and non-members alike, more aware of their roles and activities. I am going to start with the GIS SIG, which as well as being a palindrome is probably the most self-explanatory. This SIG is primarily aimed at those using GIS to generate mapping products and it organises events aimed at both showcasing what GIS can do and also providing some cartographic underpinning for people who may have learned to use GIS but may have never received any formal cartographic training. GIS SIG members are frequent presenters at BCS Better Mapping Seminars and also run events around the country, with a new venture being BCS support of the Maptime initiatives which are beginning to be held in the UK. An innovation last year, which looks like becoming a regular feature at Symposia in the future, is the Mapathon. The basic idea is for anyone interested to turn up with their own laptop, running whatever GIS software they utilise and they are given a dataset from which to generate outputs, which are then reviewed and critiqued at the end of the day. Last year we worked with data provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and 20 people attended, working in teams of 3 or 4 to produce a wide range of innovative outputs. We will be holding another Mapathon at the Symposium in York and we also hope to organise one at Ordnance Survey in late Spring.

Unusual Maps

While you do find maps in some rather unusual places, I haven’t seen one on a pasty before and certainly not one this big. It was made by the head chef at the Eden Project ahead of the World Pasty Championships to be held on 28th February. I left the Sherlock paragraph in as it ties back to my Presidential address at last year’s Symposium where I compared Cartographers to Sherlock as high functioning sociopaths. It looks like we have also both had a popularity surge with Sherlock topping iPlayer viewing figures and BCS Membership topping 700.


BCS Member Gwilym Eades from Royal Holloway University has recently published ‘Maps and Memes’ which looks at how maps and cartography have long been used in the lands and resources offices of Canada's indigenous communities in support of land claims and traditional-use studies. Published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, it can be ordered at

And Finally

A direct quote from the BBC website, “… a thing of beauty, with a wonderfully tightly packaged rear end”, referring to?

Pete Jones MBE FBCart.S CGeog

10th February 2015


Twitter: @geomapnut

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