Wednesday 6 March 2013

BCS President’s Report January 2013

31st January 2013

Very Best Wishes for a Happy New Year as we embark on 12 months of celebration for the 50th Anniversary of The British Cartographic Society. The Programme Committee have put together an excellent variety of events to celebrate our 50th year and I do hope that you will be able to make it to at least one of our events this year to help us celebrate the occasion with as many members as possible. We are already advertising our ‘Evening with Michael Palin’ on the website. He will be talking to us on 12th April at the RGS in London, so get online and book your tickets as it is bound to be a popular event.

On the subject of our 50th Anniversary, I thought it might be interesting to do a monthly check on who else is celebrating this month. The Metropolitan Underground Railway opened in 1863, so beats us by 100 years. The first services couldn’t have been very comfortable experiences with the soot and smoke, but having said that travelling on the underground last week during the rush hour wasn’t exactly fun. The delineation on the left is the first line, reproduced faithfully and is definitely pre-Beck. Those of you who attended the Annual UKGeoforum lecture will have heard Mark Ovenden’s excellent talk on underground maps, a topic which has certainly been to the fore recently. Mark is a prolific author and his latest book “London Underground by Design”, was published recently and is a ‘must’ for those interested in cartographic design.

The Flying Scotsman’s last scheduled run took place in 1963. As the map illustrates, it operated on the East Coast Route and could do the run from London to Edinburgh in just under 7 and a half hours, compared to today’s quickest time of 4 hours 19 minutes. With all the current debate on the HS2 link, the desire to get everywhere as quickly as possible seems to occupy the mind as much as ever. A lot of maps have appeared in the media this week, with a good proportion of the coverage speculating on the ‘kink’ in the line in Cheshire, with the more scurrilous suggesting that the change in alignment has something to do with not wishing to affect a certain part of the Chancellor’s constituency.

There has also been a lot of speculation in the press about whether there will be a referendum on our relationship with Europe and whether it will be a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question. Well, back in 1963, President de Gaulle said “Non” to Britain’s membership of the European Economic Union. Enlargement has been a principal feature of the Union's political landscape. The EU's predecessors were founded by the "Inner Six", those countries willing to forge ahead with the Community whilst others remained sceptical. The French President feared British membership and vetoed its application. It was only after de Gaulle left office and a 12-hour talks session by British Prime Minister Edward Heath and French President George Pompidou took place that Britain's third application succeeded in 1970.

WASHINGTON--An alarming new study released Tuesday by the Department of Education found that nearly 70 percent of Americans are incapable of pointing out a map when presented by researchers with a map. "Not only did a majority of people just stare blankly ahead, but nearly half pointed to nearby desk lamps in their attempts to guess correctly," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who called the findings endemic of the nation's failing school system. "In fact, 14 percent of all Americans claimed they had never 'even heard of no map,' and asked if being prompted to locate one was some kind of trick question." According to Duncan, the Department of Education has suspended all further studies and will instead be spending the next six months just screaming into a pillow.”

Yes, it’s a real quote, but No, it’s not serious. It was taken from “The Onion” a satirical publication in the US, forwarded to me by courtesy of LISMaps. And yet, I suspect that there may be an element of truth in it as much in the UK as in the US. Our schools initiative has clearly shown that secondary students do not get a lot of exposure to maps through the curriculum, but that when they do they are capable of producing some quality output in response to the task we set them. We are always looking for helpers at these events, so if you would like to help, check out the BCS website and get in touch, it would be great to get more BCS members involved in our outreach activities.

Whilst I will not be making a habit of welcoming all of our new members – hopefully it would be too much of a task – I would like to give a special mention to our first School. Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, is one of the first schools that we went to with the Restless Earth Workshop. We returned again this academic year and already have a booking to return again in 13/14. We are very pleased that they have joined us as a Small Corporate Member and hope they will be the first of many.

Late breaking news – the BCS has been asked to provide a speaker on next week’s Today programme on Radio 4. We don’t know which day yet, so keep an eye on the website for the latest news.

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