By DONNA URSCHEL
Map aficionados from the United States and around the world recently gathered at the Library to celebrate the Geography and Map Division's 100th anniversary, meet the division's cartographic specialists and view some of the division's treasures.
Opening the three-day event with a reception in the Great Hall on the evening of Nov. 20, Deputy Librarian Donald Scott and Ralph Ehrenberg, chief of the Geography and Map Division, welcomed more than 300 friends of the division.
Led by Philip Lee Phillips 100 years ago, the Library's original "Hall of Maps" has grown into the Geography and Map Division, the world's largest and most comprehensive map and atlas collection. On behalf of Dr. Billington, Mr. Scott thanked the division's two friends groups -- the Center for Geographic Information and the Philip Lee Phillips Society -- for the support that they have provided the division during the past two years, and acknowledged "the outstanding work of the steering committees of these two organizations, which have been so ably led by Alan Voorhees, Kenneth Nebenzahl and Eric Wolf."
"In celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Geography and Map Division," Mr. Scott noted that "we also celebrate and honor the countless cartographers who have created the treasures that now comprise the Library's cartographic collections." He then acknowledged the work of those who have made major contributions to the field of cartography and the Library of Congress: Arthur Robinson, Hal Shelton, Marie Tharp and Alan Voorhees.
Considered the dean of American cartography, Mr. Robinson inspired and taught several generations of cartographers during his long and productive career at the University of Wisconsin, where he held the Lawrence Martin Professorship of Cartography, named after the second chief of the Geography and Map Division. During World War II, Mr. Robinson headed the Map Division of the Office of Strategic Services, which, under his direction, prepared several thousand maps that greatly aided the war effort and which are now housed in the Geography and Map Division.
Among of the foremost cartographers of this century and an accomplished landscape artist, Mr. Shelton worked initially for the U.S. Geological Survey and for the Jeppesen Co. of Denver. The third honoree was Ms. Tharp, whose work with the noted marine geologist Bruce Heezen pioneered cartographic studies of the ocean floors during a career spanning 35 years with Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and the Office of Naval Research. The final honoree was Mr. Voorhees, who has generously supported the Library in many ways, including the donation of maps from his personal collection and through contributions to the James Madison Council and the Center for Geographic Information.
Mr. Ehrenberg thanked those who made the three-day event possible, the Center for Geographic Information, the Philip Lee Phillips Society, the Washington Map Society, and particularly Roger and Julie Baskes, Virginia and Jenkins Garrett, Arthur and Janet Holzheimer, Glen and Ellen McLaughlin, Kenneth and Jocelyn Nebenzahl, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Touchton, and Alan and Nathalie Voorhees.
Following the official welcome, the guests had the opportunity to view the exhibition "American Treasures of the Library of Congress," where specialists from the Manuscript, Prints and Photographs, Rare Book and Special Collections, and Geography and Map divisions answered questions. A special feature of the event was the presentation of a scanned image to the guests of Abraham Ortelius's 1570 edition of his Theatrum orbis terrarum, which the Geography and Map Division will make available on the Internet. These electronically produced, high-quality copies were made available through the support of Tangent Imaging Systems and the Hewlett Packard Co.
A scholarly program on Nov. 21 featured those honorees introduced the previous evening, as part of the joint annual meetings of the Philip Lee Phillips Society and the Center for Geographic Information.
While many scholarly details were shared and anecdotes enjoyed, one issue was not resolved: Are the painstakingly drawn maps of previous decades better than the computer-generated ones of today?
The question triggered debate among the featured panelists. Mr. Robinson said that while computer-generated maps are "better looking" they are " not as good. Nobody uses ink, so the lines are all the same width, the lettering is all neat, everything is good looking in terms of neatness, but not good in a communications aspect."
Mr. Voorhees disagreed. "I think the maps are superb today. They can express three dimensions effectively. ... They're terrific additions." Since World War II, Mr. Voorhees has planned and designed mass transit systems around the world, including the Washington Metro.
Opening the morning session was Eric Wolf, with a report on the Phillips Society, a group formed in 1995 to support the acquisition and public outreach programs of the Geography and Map Division.
Mr. Wolf, the steering committee co-chairman of the Phillips Society, expressed his awe and appreciation of the Library's vast cartographic collections: "It has millions of items of every description, including the world's largest repository of cartographic materials, which includes four and a half million maps, 63,000 atlases, 700,000 microfilm and microfiche images and over 25,000 globes, books, CD-ROMs and computer files; and it is growing at a rate of 114,000 new items per year.
"I never cease to be amazed." he said.
The purpose of the society is to stimulate interest in maps among collectors, dealers, map makers, geographers, librarians, historians and teachers, and to make the unparalleled resources of the Geography and Map Division as widely available as possible, according to Mr. Wolf. "We support the division's programs in publications, education and exhibitions and, last but not least, we make financial donations to supplement appropriated funds for the acquisition of rare maps and globes. We also encourage and facilitate gifts and bequests of important cartographic material to the division."
Mr. Wolf encouraged the more than 200 people in attendance to join the Phillips Society, which this past year provided funds to Geography and Map to acquire a pair of 13-inch globes produced by James Wilson, the first American globe maker (see LC Information Bulletin, September 1997).
The Center for Geographic Information is committed to creating more direct digital access to the Library's cartographic collections by scanning into digital form large numbers of maps, and increasing electronic access to spatial data.
Ralph Ehrenberg, chief of the Geography and Map Division, indicated that both groups have been invaluable in supporting the division and the Library, and thanked them for their assistance.
A Map Society Forum was moderated by Kenneth Nebenzahl of Illinois, a steering committee co-chairman of the Phillips Society. Among those speaking was Robert Clancy, who represented IMCoS, the International Map Collectors Society. He said, the "future is fantastic" for his group, although "we are an aging population." Mr. Clancy, a medical doctor of immunology and author of two books on mapping, said, "the private collector is the glue for historic cartography." He also spoke of the "fantastic opportunities in collectibles."
The California Map Society was represented by Alfred Newman, who laid claim to representing the oldest group, harking back to 1849 and the Gold Rush. Too esoteric for its time, it lapsed, said Mr. Newman, only to be reorganized in 1979 under academic leadership. California's vastness presents a challenge for meeting planners; consequently, the society meets twice a year, once in the north and once in the south.
The Washington Map Society holds monthly meetings from September to May at the Library. A very active group, it publishes a journal three times a year with major research articles, has a Web site and includes diverse groups of members, from noted academics, Foreign Service and military personnel to kayakers and wine enthusiasts, according to Hubert Johnson, the society's current president.
The smallest group, with 25 members, was the Rocky Mountain Map Society, represented by Wesley Brown, a member of the Phillips Society Steering Committee. Division specialists as well as the chief have spoken at recent meetings.
"I'm presenting the contrasting image of a map society. We don't have a university or institution affiliation," said Mr. Brown. "We keep the society simple to keep it going. We have low-key, quick meetings," he explained.
In the next segment of the program, the Geography and Map Division specialists were introduced: James Flatness, acquisitions officer; Ronald Grim and Patricia van Ee, cartographic history; Gary Fitzpatrick, Geographic Information Systems; and Gene Roberts, National Digital Library.
Mr. Flatness said a few of his goals are to acquire large-scale maps of the Soviet Union and Asia, and maps from the field during World War II.
Cartographic historian Ronald Grim described the Library projects completed last year, including the book Images of the World: The Atlas Through History; the exhibition "Celebrating the Portuguese Communities in America -- A Cartographic Perspective"; 20 cartographic items in the exhibition "American Treasures of the Library of Congress"; and the cartographic items in the newly released book Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States.
Ms. van Ee spoke on the division's publications program and plans to begin an "Occasional Paper" series, some of which will be essays or papers; others will be cartobibliographic in nature and describe some of the lesser known collections in the division.
Mr. Fitzpatrick said the Sanborn Map Co., one of the oldest map companies in the United States, will help the Library make available on its Web site nearly 1 million of the richly detailed fire insurance maps (see LC Information Bulletin, December 1997). The project will take 10 years to complete. Sanborn will start with Chicago and the first maps will be online in the summer of 1998.
More online projects were discussed by Mr. Roberts, who said the collection of panoramic maps, now available from the American Memory project at www.loc.gov, will be finished by the end of the year. Future projects include the Library's American railroad maps and maps from the Civil War.
During the lunch break, the participants were urged to view electronic maps, cartographic treasures and the work of Mr. Robinson, Mr. Shelton, Ms. Tharp and Mr. Voorhees on display in the division's reading room. Some of the treasures included a 1482 classical image of the world derived from Claudius Ptolemy's "Geographia"; a 1513 map of the newly discovered continents of North and South America; a 1695 siege of the city of Namur, Belgium, during the War of the Grand Alliance; the 1819 terrestrial and 1821 celestial James Wilson globes; and a 1943 World War II escape map of Southern Germany enclosed in a set of playing cards distributed by the American Red Cross to prisoners of war.
Diane Kresh, acting director for Public Service Collections, introduced the last program of the day, which was a discussion of the history of maps in the Library, led by some of those who know it best: two former division leaders and the current one, Mr. Ehrenberg.
Mr. Ehrenberg discussed the first 150 years of maps at the Library and pointed out that two maps and an atlas were included in the Library's first acquisition of materials in 1801. They were among the most up-to-date maps available at that time (Arrowsmith's "Great Wall Map" of America of 1796 and a six-sheet map of South America from 1799) and" started a pattern that was to continue to the present day."
During the 19th century, Ainsworth Rand Spofford (Librarian 1864-1897) added a number of major map collections to the Library's materials, which today are among the division's treasures: the William Faden Collection of maps of the Revolutionary and French and Indian wars; the Peter Force Collection of early American manuscript and printed maps, and the Rochambeau Collection of watercolor maps showing sites occupied by French forces during the Revolution. In the 1870s, the change in the copyright law began bringing maps into the Library as deposits; and then, in 1897, the Library moved into its own space in the new Library building, and the Map Room (the beginning of the Geography and Map Division) was created.
Mr. Ehrenberg recounted the accomplishments of the first division chief, Phillip Lee Phillips -- who traveled around the world, often at his own expense -- to find maps and atlases for the Library's collections, and his successor, Lawrence Martin, who served as chief from 1924 to 1944.
Walter R. Ristow, assistant chief in 1946-1968 and chief in 1968-1978, continued the story of the division, recounting anecdote after anecdote about the personalities of the division during his tenure -- from Luther Evans to Clara LeGear to Burt Atkinson to Arch Gerlach.
John Wolter, chief of the division from 1978 to 1991, concluded the discussion by recounting more recent activities of the division, including the summer map projects, the move to Pickett Street in Alexandria and back to the Madison Building, and important acquisitions.
Finally, Mary Larsgard, assistant head of the Davidson Library in Santa Barbara, Calif., closed with a commentary on what it was like to work with the division from another library -- and how much map librarians all over the country rely on the Geography and Map Division staff for guidance in map cataloging.
On Saturday, Nov. 22, following a lecture by former staffer Richard Stephenson and Mr. Ehrenberg on "Pierre Charles L'Enfant's Plan of the City of Washington and Two Centuries of Change," nearly 80 guests embarked on a L'Enfant-related tour of the city and Arlington, Va. The site selected was where L'Enfant first met with George Washington. For many of the participants the tour was a highlight of the celebration as it gave them the opportunity to mingle informally with each other while sharing their enthusiasm for maps and history.
Ms. Urschel is a Washington free-lance writer. Helen Dalrymple contributed to this report.