Embroidered Learning

I had to learn two very different skill sets as a girl: needlepoint and geography. Who would have thought that at one time, girls were expected to learn the two together? What an unexpected interdisciplinary education! Among the women in my family, right up to my generation in the 1970s, needlework and yarn work were…

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Cartography of Extremes

Maybe it’s the instinctual part of humans that makes us obsessed with the biggest, the strongest, the highest, the illustrious measurements that dazzle. Whether it’s the highest mountain, the broadest lake, the longest river, we look for inspiration in extremes. Whether it’s justified or not, we do the same in societies. The biggest economies, the…

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Rendering Unseen Stories

I was recently alerted to this lovely collection of maps on Canva – a collection that isn’t meant to provide physical directions but to provide inspiration for design. Map-making has almost always been a way of telling stories at least as much as it has been a way to find places.   This particular collection, which…

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Tactile Topography

I came across some maps the other day and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them since. Carved wood maps are well-known Inuit instruments of cartography, made to navigate the coastal waters and inland areas of Greenland. The maps are read by feeling along each ridge, and are legible up one side and…

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Shifting Outlines

How a map is drawn says more about the interests and intentions of the cartographers than it does about the space it describes. Take, for example, these various maps of the Arctic. For most of human existence, the Arctic has been a place of myth, fascination and exploration. For a very few, it’s been home.…

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Valentine Cartography

You can email individual trees now in Melbourne, and thousands of people are doing just that from around the world. Not that the trees can read the emails, since as far as I know they have not yet been equipped with technology that translates into Tree. The Melbourne city council initially started a project to…

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Certitude and Change

Images of this 1956 Pictorial Wildlife and Game Map of the United States have been kicking around the Internet for a while now. It caught my eye when I first saw it, but I’ve been pondering just why I find it so intriguing. Sure, it’s picturesque and pretty. It harks back to a cheery era…

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Antarctic Shiver

Everyone knows the best scare stories are those in which the most obvious and visible danger turns out to less dire than an unsuspected peril revealed only later, the deadfall that sends a shiver down the listener’s spine. We’ve all heard about the Antarctic ice shelf melt-off that’s been taking place with increasing speed and…

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Oxbows and Meanders

I found this tangled map, created in 1944, over on the ever-fruitful NASA web site for the Earth Observatory. It shows historical changes along a stretch of the Mississippi River. I stumbled upon it while looking at a small collection of river surveys from 1865, and comparing them to modern Google maps. There was this…

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Subterranean Lines

The bulk of the fracking boom currently underway in the United States is not only in one of the least populated and remote states, North Dakota (population 724,000 – and it’s only that large because of the fracking boom and all the new workers there), but it also takes place mostly underground. Sure, there are…

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