Whether familiar with the history and personalities of mountaineering or not, cartography students of a certain age who studied mapmaking at the University of Washington would frequently hear the name of an earlier UW grad, Dee Molenaar. Any who aspired to turn their hand to depicting terrain on maps would learn from their professor of the exemplary landform maps created by Molenaar.
Today I find myself in a field, GIS, that was practically in its infancy when I started to learn how to make maps, but which has engulfed cartography in what has become a vastly broader spatial-knowledge and spatial-communication industry. There is no better evidence of that than the annual Esri User Conference which I and many of my King County colleagues are attending this week.
Can you find the answer to this simple story problem? If the King County GIS Center has 700 layers in its FTP Data Download Portal and subtracts 700 layers from it, how many layers are left?
Some modern mapmaking tools don’t have direct antecedents. Yes, maps have long been composed of many layers of separate artwork just as we have digital map feature layers now, but in the during the time of Mylar overlays, pin registration, and photomechanical reproduction that resulted in static paper maps, there was nothing like the dynamic and highly interactive web maps that are second nature to us today.
King County Metro Transit, in coordination with area jurisdictions, including the City of Seattle, has long designated a network of high-ridership bus routes that can use typically plowed streets and which avoid steep hills to provide a reduced but core level of service during major snow events.
It is fortunate that weather conditions over the last six years had not necessitated the activation of Metro’s Emergency Snow Network and the publication of their Emergency Snow Network map. That is until two days ago.
Cartographers and GIS analysts often have to make choices about where, within a given map space, to position points that represent real-world features. Shouldn’t be a big deal though, should it? A place is a place, a location a location. It’s just there. You know, where the house or building or parking lot, or whatever, sits on the ground! Well, it isn’t that simple.
Among the fundamental skills required to be map literate, that is, to be able to read and comprehend maps, are an understanding of scale, the recognition of spatial orientation, and an appreciation of map projections. A higher-level, overarching principle of map literacy is that a single map can seldom tell a whole story, which is a point well made by Dr. Kenneth Field, Esri senior cartographic product engineer, in a recent article in Wired.
The Seattle Times on Saturday, June 2, published an article by staff reporter Erik Lacitis about a “secret, massive program that produced a million maps of cities and places around the world.” The mapping program is fascinating both from a cartographic perspective and a local perspective since Seattle and its environs are among the parts of the United States that were mapped.
Frequent users of King County iMap, the online app that provides scores of the most popular King County GIS data layers in a flexible, multi-feature, interactive map viewer, now have access to 2017 aerial orthophoto imagery as a basemap.
One of the most satisfying things that a well-made map can do is convey a sense of place. And an especially well-map map may convey a sense of a past place that both infuses and transcends a present location. I came across such a map yesterday just a few blocks from our own King County GIS Center location, where Seattle’s Pioneer Square transitions to the International District, specifically the historic Japantown.