September 23, 2005 Exhibition on "Maps in Our Lives" Opens

Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple or Trish Taylor Shuman (202) 707-1940
Public Contact: Virginia Mason (202) 707-8520
Contact: View the exhibition online.

“Maps in Our Lives,” an exhibition in recognition of a 30-year partnership between the Library’s Geography and Map Division and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), will be on view, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, through Jan. 6, 2007, in the corridor outside the Geography and Map Division, B Level of the Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The exhibition explores four constituent professions represented by ACSM, the nation’s primary professional organization dedicated to surveying and mapping activities: surveying, cartography, geodesy and geographic information systems (GIS). The approximately 50 items in the exhibition are drawn from the Library’s collection of historic maps and the ACSM collection in the Library of Congress.

The surveying section of the exhibition features maps that illustrate the historical evolution of surveying techniques, using maps of George Washington’s farm (located in present-day Fairfax County, Va.) executed between 1760 and 1999. A video produced by the Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. (ESRI) provides a dramatic historical and spatial comparison of these maps with the same portion of today’s Fairfax County, by overlaying them with contemporary GIS data. The two-minute video illustrates the power and effectiveness of GIS in presenting and interpreting landscape over time. Visitors can also see facsimiles of the maps, three of which were produced by Washington himself, in the exhibition.

The cartographic section of “Maps in Our Lives” highlights more than 40 items selected from ACSM’s annual map design competition and exemplifies notable advances in cartographic interpretations, design and production during the last 22 years. It illustrates how cartography can be used to produce thematic maps (biodiversity in the Philippines, the incidence of hurricanes in the North Atlantic); maps for reference purposes (map of the U.S. Capitol for the visually impaired, a country profile of Iran produced by the CIA); recreation and travel maps (airline travel routes, a panoramic map of the North Cascades); and, finally, maps produced for books and atlases (population distribution and annual precipitation).

Geodesy, the science that determines precise locations on the earth’s surface, such as latitude and longitude, is exemplified in the exhibition with a large map of the United States. It resulted from the first long-distance use of geodesy in America in1871—a survey along the 39th parallel arc that lies near the north-south center of the continental United States—that established the central reference point for later surveys.

The American Congress on Surveying and Mapping was formed in 1941 to better coordinate the nation’s surveying and mapping activities. The cartographers, geodesists, surveyors and other spatial data information professionals who participate in the four member organizations of ACSM work in both the public and private sectors. They make the earth’s geospatial information more easily understandable through the plats, charts, maps and digital cartographic and related data systems that they produce. The exhibition is made possible with the support of the ACSM.

The Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress serves as a major international center for research relating to cartography and geography. Its map and atlas collection is the largest in the world, with some 5 million map sheets, 60,000 atlases, 300 globes, 2,000 terrain models, 1.6 million aerial photographs and remote sensing images and approximately 3,000 compact disks of digital data. Its collections date from the 14th century to the most recent satellite images and cover virtually every country and subject.


PR 05-199
ISSN 0731-3527