By JAMES FLATNESS
The Geography and Map Division's (G&M) response to the terrorist attacks of September 11 initially focused on preparing for requests from Congress, federal agencies and the public for up-to-date and accurate geographic information and mapping of countries in the Middle East. A task force representing the division's acquisitions, digital, cataloging, reference and collection management activities was established to review the Library's existing holdings, identify wanted material, and expedite the processing of pertinent cartographic resources.
The reference team, in conjunction with the Library's Congressional Relations Office, identified a number of maps that were then pulled and kept on-hand for immediate response to congressional inquiries.
With the national focus on Afghanistan, Pakistan and their neighbors, the acquisition staff ordered desired materials, primarily from federal mapping agencies. A review of a large collection of maps recently transferred to the Library revealed several hundred sheets of 1:50,000 and 1:100,000 scale topographic map series of Afghanistan, which became the division's primary resource for identifying locations and documenting military events and activities in that country. The staff created new graphic indexes for several map series, and the cataloging team, with some language assistance from the Regional and Cooperative Cataloging Division of Library Services, gave priority to the cataloging and processing of the selected items.
In collecting cartographic materials relating to the events of 9/11, G&M is concentrating on documenting the role that maps played in managing the recovery effort. Beyond illustrating the landscape of the crash sites, geographic and cartographic resources were important emergency management tools, helping officials evaluate damage, monitor the progress of recovery, and provide for the safe deployment of personnel. Geographic resources have been described as the "common denominator" for the response and recovery efforts.
Traditional surveying and mapping techniques as well as modern electronic and remote sensing technologies were employed by emergency management officials to aid the rescue and recovery operations, with the greatest quantity and diversity of cartographic techniques associated with the vast devastation at the World Trade Center site. Remote sensing and aerial imagery–including hand-held photographs taken from helicopters, digital orthophotography, laser (known as LIDAR) technology with the capability of penetrating through the smoke to produce accurate elevation data, and thermal imagery for mapping hot spots in the rubble–provided accurate and detailed depictions of the changing status of the Ground Zero site. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology provided the framework for accurately and expeditiously documenting the location of critical features, items found and dangerous sites in the rubble pile. And Geographical Information Systems (GIS) provided the framework for integrating, analyzing and displaying a wide variety of spatial data.
With GIS technology, cartographers produced three-dimensional modeling of destroyed or damaged buildings, comparative before and after studies of the site, and maps of the environmental quality, changing status of the communication systems, and the damaged infrastructure in the vicinity of Ground Zero. One of the most important GIS tools for the recovery effort was New York City's central GIS database, NYCMap, a physical base map of the whole city with numerous thematic and cultural data layers registered to it. NYCMap provided the common framework for integrating spatial and thematic data.
The Geography and Map Division is pursuing the acquisition of resources that will document the use of these various forms of cartographic presentation at the World Trade Center site as well as at the Pentagon. It is actively seeking hard-copy and digital cartographic materials from numerous government agencies, private-sector companies and academic institutions that collaborated on the mapping of the 9/11 events.
Government agencies–federal, state and municipal–took the lead in the mapping and emergency management activities, and they are the primary sources of cartographic and spatial materials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Defense Department, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) all contributed to the mapping efforts. A compelling image taken on Sept. 23, 2001, by NOAA from 3,300 feet shows the devastation and continuing recovery effort; it is on display in the Library's "Witness and Response" exhibition.
At the state level, the New York State Office for Technology funded much of the aerial imagery. It has offered to provide the Library with a complete record of the data that it gathered over the World Trade Center and Fresh Kills debris processing sites.
At the municipal level, New York City's Office of Emergency Management and the GIS office of the city's Department of Information Technology and Communications played key roles in organizing and coordinating the data integration and mapping work of the numerous agencies and organizations collaborating on the recovery program. Video terminals in the exhibition will show a series of aerial and remote sensing images, models and fly-through visualizations of the World Trade Center site provided by New York's Office for Technology.
Government agencies were supported by and worked jointly with a variety of private-sector geospatial software and imagery companies, in-cluding EarthData Inter-national, ESRI, PlanGraphics and the Mitre Corporation. Academic institutions also participated in the collaborative mapping effort. In particular, the Center for the Analysis and Research of Spatial Information at Hunter College in New York City played a key role in the application of the NYCMap database and the production of thematic mapping. The Geosensing Engineering and Mapping Center of the University of Florida used laser imagery to precisely map the damage done at both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Other sources of mapping included The Washington Post. Its cartographic staff provided a complete set, on better quality paper, of the Post's maps of the war in Afghanistan and the illustrations of the 9/11 attacks that appeared in the newspaper. Laura Kurgan, a professor of architecture at Princeton, privately produced two editions of a map titled "Around Ground Zero," which was designed to orient visitors to the World Trade Center site (and which will be on view in "Witness and Response"). A traveling exhibit of the mapping created for the World Trade Center site, called "Charting Ground Zero: Before and After," was produced by Sean Ahearn, professor at Hunter College and originally shown at the Woodward Gallery in New York City. A CD-ROM of that exhibit has been donated to the Library.
The efforts of staff in G&M since the events of September 11 have enhanced the Library's holdings of the cartography of the Middle East and will help future users and scholars of the map collections understand the critical role that geospatial resources played in the management of the recovery efforts.
James Flatness is a cartographic specialist in the Geography and Map Division.