Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Map on the Wall

Once a month, I arrive home from an exhausting day of classes, meetings, and work here at the Clark Library to find a bright yellow present waiting in my mail box. That's right, it's National Geographic Day. I carry the new issue up to my apartment, tear off the pesky plastic covering, and flip through the glossy pages instead of doing that homework that I really should be doing. If it's an especially good National Geographic Day, a map will plop out of the bottom of the magazine.

I have had a subscription to National Geographic since middle school. Starting in middle school and continuing into high school, I also covered every square inch of my bedroom walls with posters. Along with the movie posters and my vintage map of Middle Earth, I hung up my favorite National Geographic supplement maps.

The first one to go up was this map of Mars which we have a copy of there are the Clark. In fact, many of the National Geographic  maps in my personal collection can also be found here.

One of the disadvantages of hanging these maps on the wall was that it meant I couldn't enjoy the backs of the maps. In most cases, I had forgotten what the backs of most of these maps looked like until I looked them up again here at the Clark. I eventually stopped hanging up my National Geographic posters because it was more fun if I could see and study both sides. In addition to being beautiful maps, these supplements have beautiful illustrations and fascinating infographics. While we would be happy to pull some of the maps in our collection for your perusal, I recommend starting your own collection. In my experience, these maps are best enjoyed when spread out on a bedroom floor.

Friday, December 7, 2012

New Resource, Old Maps

The Clark Library holds more than 370,000 maps in our collection, along with about 10,000 atlases and reference works. Despite this amazing number, patrons sometimes ask for maps that are not part of our collection, or they may not be able to visit the Clark in person. In these cases, outside digital resources may fill the gap. One of the most helpful, comprehensive sources of this kind is Old Maps Online.

The Old Maps Online portal brings together historical maps from library collections around the world, including the Harvard Map Collection; the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales; and the New York Public Library Map Division. The project was created through a collaboration between The Great Britain Historical GIS Project and Klokan Technologies GmbH of Switzerland with funding from the UK’s Joint Information Service Committee. Because the portal is free to use and does not require registration, it’s easy to begin searching the vast collections right away.

The search for maps is aided by an interface that allows users the option not only to type in the content they’re looking for, but also the ability to search by zooming in on a present-day Google map to find items in the collections linked to that geographic location.

Searching Old Maps Online

The historical maps that are part of the collection span the centuries, and include everything from boundary and political maps to estate maps and admiralty sea charts. Metadata for each digitized map identifies the collection that it is a part of, as well as information about the location, creator, date of publication, and other notes.

Because it pools the resources of many of the world’s premiere map collections, a visit to the Old Maps Online portal is like taking a trip to many libraries at once, all with a few clicks of a mouse. It may be the place to turn for that hard-to-find map you’re searching for.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Way We Voted

The last few days of the 2012 campaign season are upon us. Although we don’t yet know what outcomes Election Day 2012 (Nov. 6) will bring, we are familiar with the process that will take place. Americans across the country will report to polling places or mail in ballots, and officials will work furiously to tally the results.

Although that voting data will be extremely important on Tuesday, it won’t disappear once the winners are determined. In fact, election night will just be the first stage in scrutiny that will continue in the months and years ahead. A staggering amount of statistical analysis and visualization can be conducted with national election data. For a comprehensive example of what’s been done since the 2008 election, check out this project, created by Stanford University’s Spatial Social Science Lab in conjunction with researchers at Harvard University.

Still from the Stanford Election Atlas

Curious about how your neighborhood voted in 2008? The Stanford Election Atlas displays results at the precinct level, allowing you to see the political variety that can often be found across just one county. The atlas also uses 2010 Census information to break down the race/ethnicity, income, potential voters per square mile, and margin of victory statistics for block groups across the country and overlay that data on the precinct returns.  

Some (not too surprising) findings from our area:  

  • All of the precincts in both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti went blue in 2008.  
  • The areas in Ann Arbor with the highest percentage of potential voters (in other words, the greatest concentration of households with residents ages 18 and above) are found on or adjacent to the U of Michigan campus. 
Only time will tell what the Election Atlas will look like for the 2012 race. But there’s one way to make sure that you help to shape the data: VOTE!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Paris Part Deux

In my search for Metro maps to include in my last post, I looked through a lot of very interesting, very old guidebooks and maps. There are, of course, standard features in these types of resources. Guidebooks all mention exchange rates, how to take the Metro, and what to see in the Louvre. Maps all have the major boulevards and monuments marked. But today I want to take some time and share some of the more unusual items that I came across. 

Detail from Guide-indicateur des rues de
 Paris Moyens de Transport by Leconte (1930)
The front side of this first map is a standard plan of Pairs, just like you would find in any guidebook. Turn it over, however, and you find an illustrated map of all of Paris' most noteworthy and impressive monuments. As it only lists main roads (and no Metro stops), this may not be the most helpful map if you are trying to get from your hotel to that cute cafe off the beaten track, but the charming (and detailed) illustrations of Paris' churches and monuments more than makes up for it.

Detail from map of Pere Lachaise from Paris and its environs
 ed. Muirhead and Monmarche (1921)

Every good guidebook is going to have a map of the entirety of Paris. The best ones, however, also have maps of other attractions. One of my favorite examples is the lovely map of Pere Lachaise Cemetary that can be found in Muirhead's Paris and its Environs. Today, some of the most popular gravesites in Pere Lachaise are those of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison. This map, published in 1921, does not include any of those gravesites, but it will lead you to the graves of Honore de Balzac, Moliere, Chopin, and the famous lovers Heloise and Abelard.

Then there is this little gem that promises a tour of Paris (including Versailles and Fontainbleu) in just four days. The guide has itnieraties for both the morning and afternoon of every day, with a special evening trip to Versailles on the last day. For each excursion, the traveller is provided with a starting point (including the relevant Metro stop) and a one-page map of the walking route with descriptions of all of the noteworthy attractions along that route.While most of our guidebooks from the turn of the turn of the twentieth assume a minimum of three weeks or so to explore the city, this pocket-sized volume offered a quick and dirty tour of the City of Light for the traveller with less than a month of free time.  Personally, I think I would be too exhasuted to stand by the end of this whirlwind tour.

Finally, there is this map from 1924, published by the department store Bon Marche. Like many maps printed for tourists, this includes a list of relevant monuments and museums to visit. This map is special in that it includes a list of libraries, churches, chapels, and synagogues for the conveniece of the traveller. It not only lists the famous Catholic churches and cathederals that one typically associates with a visit to Paris, but includes the headings "English and American Chapels," Calvinist Chapel," and "Lutheran Chapel." There is even a listing for what is now called the Great Mosque of Paris, although at the time that this map was published, the mosque was still under construction as you can see in the image below. 
Detail from Plan de Paris: dresse specialement pour les magasins du Bon Marche by H. Trope (1924)
Construction on the Great Mosque of Paris was not completed until 1926.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Ride on the Metro

In my experience, it is almost impossible to get lost in Paris. As long as you have a Metro map, you can find your way to anyplace in the city. Recently, I took a look at some of the older Paris Metro maps in the Clark Library's collection. The oldest and newest of these maps were both printed for promotional purposes by the department store Galeries Lafayette. The other two maps are fold out pages from guidebooks.

This first map from 1900 is one of those published for Galeries Lafayette. It is a standard map of Paris with a translucent overlay of the Metro system. Although very fragile, this map surely would have come in handy for the disoriented traveler.
Paris: edition speciale des Galeries Lafayette Paris, by George Dreyfus (1900)
This next map is 10 years older and shows very few changes from the 1900 map.

Plan de Paris divisee en 20 arrondissements, by L. Guilmin (1910)
This map is from Muirhead's Paris and Its Environs (1921). It has not only the Metro lines marked, but also bus routes, boats, streetcars, and railways.

From Paris and its environs, edited by Findlay Muirhead and Marcel Monmarche (1921)

This stylized map from 1925 is another printed for Galeries Lafayette and looks a little more similar to the Metro maps that we use today, although the lines are not yet color-coded as they are on modern Metro maps.

Plan de paris en vingt arrondissements : avec les lignes du Metropolitain et du Nord-Sud dresse epecialement pour les grands magasins aux Galeries Layfayette (1925)

Of course, if you're looking for a map to take on your next vacation, this might be slightly more helpful.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Not Your Family Vacation Atlas

Often, students and patrons seem to wonder what it is they can gain from our collections of map materials beyond the obvious uses, or the nostalgic, wanderlust aesthetic. And it's true, many maps are inspiring - they bring us to think about travelling to places we've never been, places we've never thought about. We use them as a very real guide on all sorts of trips. However, someone had to make those maps, and the process of making them is a historically and politically loaded one, that should be kept in mind when looking at any map.

Just yesterday, we exhibited (and continue to have on display) work by Community High's Melanie Langa on the mapping of the Arctic, which was greatly influenced by who was mapping it, how they related to the people that they were gathering information from, and what they were hoping that the arctic would look like. As her research shows, and as you can see if you drop by to see the exhibit, the Northwest Passage didn't turn out at all like the mapmakers had hoped; they're confusion in dealing with the Native Americans, and assumption that there would be a usable trade route through this uncharted land led to some very inaccurate, sometimes completely imagined maps of the Arctic.

There are also a myriad of politically and socially charged maps and atlases in our collection that may interest anyone skeptical of the weight that maps can hold in society. Just a few days ago I stumbled upon this gem:
 This is an atlas unlike any you've seen on a family road trip; it contains 10 maps and essays about the social issues involved in mapmaking. This book claims to provide a critical foundation for an area of work that bridges art/design, cartography/geography, and activisim." It questions why maps are they way they are, and how the map comments on or omits information from "globalization to garbage; surveillance to extraordinary rendition; statelessness to visibility; deportation to migration." You can read more about this atlas here: or simply drop into the Clark and take a look for yourself.

If that isn't interesting enough for you, take a look at Frank Jacobs' book "Strange Maps: an Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities." This is a book compiled of blog posts (from his blog by this odd map enthusiast. Though more overtly out-there, these maps have as much relevance as any others, as someone at some point in time saw fit to put the effort in to create them. Having grown tired of traditional maps, Frank started finding, posting, and writing about these maps. These include maps of countries had their war history been different, maps of imaginary places, and many more. Again, this book is available here in the Clark Library for anyone interested.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"The Imaginary Arctic" Exhibit!

Come to the Clark Library today to see a presentation on the mapping of the Arctic, put together by Community High's Melanie Langa at 4:00! There will be refreshments, and Melanie will be giving a short talk.

Weather Report

Weather patterns and other natural phenomenon are an endless source for creative ways to display data. From plotting disasters to recording blustery days, information about weather across the globe can be used to create a stimulating picture of both the mundane and extraordinary. The following are a few visualizations that caught my eye:

-Major Earthquakes Compiled in NOAA Global Significant Earthquake Database

We may get our fair share of snow and freezing temperatures in Michigan, but there is a tradeoff: we rarely need to worry about earthquakes, hurricanes, or tsunamis. This benefit of life of in the Midwest is made clear in the map below, which highlights the density and magnitude of seismic activity from 2150 B.C. to present day and the populations most at risk. The visualization was featured in a Mother Jones blog post late last year. The blog explored recent research, presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in fall 2011, that suggests that large earthquakes could be triggered by tropical cyclones.

Map credit: Credit: Benjamin D. Hennig, Sasi Research Group, University of Sheffield.

-2011 Hurricane Season
This four-minute video is another NOAA visualization found through a Mother Jones blog post. Through these timelapse images, you can see each of last season’s tropical storms – from Arlene to Sean – emerge, swirl, and die out. While many never approach land, others, including Hurricane Irene, which gathered the most U.S. news coverage in 2011, come dangerously close to shore.

Video credit: NOAA Visualizations,

-United States Wind Map
Part art project, part weather map, this constantly updated visualization tracks wind speed across the country in real time. The map, created by Google visualization researchers Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg, uses data from the National Digital Forecast Database, which collects information about a variety of weather elements, including dew points, temperature, and humidity. Note that the site is best viewed in the Chrome browser.

Image credit:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Third Thursday!

Come on over this Thursday, April 19th, to partake in the Third Thursday open house! We'll have lots of maps, guide-books, and ephemera to go along with the theme this month: April in Paris!

Pretty spiffy poster, don't you think?

The event will take place from 4-7 p.m. in the Clark Library, which is on the second floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library.

Everyone is welcome, and, as always, we will provide treats!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Where Your Taxes Go

Last year, What We Pay For had a competition to see who could create the best visualization that showed where all the money a person paid in taxes went. There were lots of interesting ways people approached this task, and all of the finalists an honorable mentions are worth checking out.

The winner, Where Did My Tax Dollars Go? by Anil Kandangath, makes a pie chart with clickable information based on the income data you give it.

For example, if you were single and had made $40,000, this would have been the chart breaking down where your taxes had gone, with the 'National Defense' slice clicked on and thus broken down in more detail off to the side.

This is data for the tax year 2009 (spending year 2010), and assuming no deductions or exemptions. Though it's not shown in this screen capture, this person would have spent $23, or 0.3% of the total taxes, on Aircraft Procurement for the Air Force for that year. In various other categories, this person would have spent $10 on Space Operations, $9 on Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and $2 on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The runner-up, Fred Chasen's Every Day is Tax Day, chose to focus not just on the amount of money, but also the amount of time you spent each day working for the money you paid in taxes. There is also the option of changing the year for the data you wish to see, from 1984 to 2015.

Here we can see the amount of time spent working for the Department of Commerce, and also specifically the Judiciary Information Technology Fund-- less than a second.

Other entries include splitting up the taxes you paid into how many burgers, beers, iPods, and other things you could have bought instead, and one that allows you to compare your priorities to the government's.

See more visualizations here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Third Thursday!

Please join us for our Third Thursday, today from 4-7 at the Clark Library! We're located on the second floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library.

Our theme for this month's open house is "Michigan Borderlands." We’ll have maps and other items on display which show the dynamic history, activity, and importance of our borders with Canada and the other Great Lakes states. Some highlights include the official 1835 map showing the Ohio boundary question, a map showing the Detroit River area during the War of 1812, and maps of the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel at the time of their opening.

 Public welcome. For more information, call (734) 764-0410.

We'll have cookies!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure (very carefully)

Choose Your Own Adventure books hold a special place in my heart, though I do remember that the most innocuous-seeming actions would sometimes lead to instant death. Of course, that death didn't count if you still had your finger on the page of the previous choice, but still.

Michael Niggel charted the outcomes of a specific Choose Your Own Adventure book, Under the Sea, and shared the resulting visualization with the internet.

As you can see, the unfavorable results far outnumber the happy endings, and most of the unfavorable endings are deaths.

See the full-sized PDF of the chart here, and read more about the visualization here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Visualizing the Decline of Empires

Pedro Cruz created a visualization of the land mass gained and lost by the British, French, Portuguese, and Spanish empires over the years. Colonies separate from their colonizers and bounce around for a little while before fading away. Land mass is shown by the size of the circles representing the empires, and the years tick by in the lower left corner of the screen.

Here in 1936, we can see the recently-separated masses of South Africa, Canada, and Iraq, color-coded to match the parent node of Britain, bouncing around. At the same time, Australia (not yet labeled) begins to bulge out of the side of the British Empire in anticipation of its own imminent release.

There is just something that is really satisfying about watching the little colonies swell up and burst out of the empires.

Read more about it and watch the video here, and check out an updated version of the visualization here. The updated version has the added bonus of keeping the former colonies onscreen (as outlines, and with labels that fade away after a few moments), and having them migrate to their geographical locations.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Ebb and Flow of Movies

The New York Times made an interactive visualization of how movies did in the theaters from 1986 through 2008.

The height of the section for each movie shows the weekly revenue of the film over time, the width shows how long it stayed in theaters, and the area of the shape and the deepness of the color shows the total revenue of the film during its stay in theaters. Clicking on the slice that represents a movie brings up a short synopsis of the movie and a link to the New York Times movie overview.

Interestingly, even adjusted for inflation, the visualization shows that movies today are enjoying a wider audience and more sales than they did in the late 80's and early 90's. Also, there seems to be a continuing trend that much more money is spent in theaters in December and over the summer months than over the rest of the year, though occasionally there is a spike in November, or a certain movie that does especially well in spite of having been released in late winter or early spring.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

ICA Video Contest

The International Cartographic Association has put out a call for all students, young cartographers, and map enthusiasts to create and submit short videos about modern cartography and what it means in day-to-day life. The videos should be in English, two minutes long at the most, and hosted on a website (preferably YouTube). Once the video has been uploaded, send the URL to the ICA Secretary-General at .

The winner will be awarded a cash prize, a certificate, and have his or her video shown on the ICA website ( and used to promote cartography world-wide.

The deadline for submissions is June 1st, 2012-- get those cameras rolling, and good luck!

Read more about the contest, including the full terms and conditions, here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cartography Scholars: Apply for the Ristow Prize!

Since 1994, the Washington Map Society has offered an annual Ristow Prize, a $1,000 cash award recognizing academic research achievement in the history of cartography. To be considered for the 2012 prize, full or part-time undergraduate, graduate, or first-year postdoctoral students must submit a research paper in the field of the history of cartography by June 1.

Papers should be 7,500 words or less and must have been completed in fulfillment of course requirements. Student work will be judged based on the importance of research, quality of research, and quality of writing. In addition to the cash prize, winners are also honored with a one-year membership in the Washington Map Society and publication of their paper in The Portolan, the society’s journal.

The award, designed to encourage young scholars, is named for the late Dr. Walter W. Ristow, chief of the Geography & Map Division at the Library of Congress and co-founder and first president of the Washington Map Society. University of Michigan students took home the prize in 1994 and 2006; click here to see a full list of past honorees and paper topics.

To learn more about the Ristow Prize or to submit an academic paper to the competition, click here. Good luck!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Workshops Offered on GIS, Excel, Census Data, Qualtrics, and More

Join staff from the Clark Library for Maps, Government Information and Data Services for a series of workshops this semester. The workshops offer tips for using a variety of tools, software programs and other library resources. They are free and open to anyone on campus. Register today!

Workshops for Winter 2012 include:
  • Intro to GIS
  • Intro to Mobile GIS and a Case Study of Mobile GIS via SWEEP
  • What’s New in ArcGIS 10.0
  • Data Visualization Strategies
  • Mapping Strategies for Complex Data
  • Finding Census Data
  • Excel: Beyond the Basics
  • Excel Pivot Tables
  • Life after the Statistical Abstract
  • Introduction to Policy Resources
  • Qualtrics: Survey Creation
  • Qualtrics: Survey Output Options and Formats

Access the full workshop schedule and descriptions here.

As always, consultations on finding data and using software are also available on an individual basis. Click here to use the scheduling tool to make an appointment with a librarian.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Third Thursday!

Join us tomorrow, January 19th, for the first Third Thursday open house in the Clark Library! The theme of the day will be "Traveling by Train," and from 4-7 p.m. we will be displaying historical railroad and subway maps, timetables, guidebooks, and travel brochures from our extensive collection.

Come to the Clark Library, on the second floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library. If you haven't visited yet, you're in for a treat. Our new space is beautiful and is more conducive for research and viewing our materials.

Not a U of M student, faculty, or staff member? Don't worry-- the public is always welcome! For more information, call 734 764-0410.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Geocaching: GPS treasure hunts

Are you feeling bored, as though you could do with some adventure and some time out-of-doors? Do you have a GPS-enabled device and a love for unearthing small treasures?

Geocaching might be just what you need!

Geocaching is a user-community-driven game. Players can find caches near them, load the coordinates onto their GPS device, and go treasure hunting! There is an online community where people keep track of which caches they've found, log their experiences, comment on and rate the caches, and post caches for others to hunt down, once they have gotten a hang of the game and its rules.

With five million geocachers worldwide, you should be able to find a cache not too far from you.

Here's an example of part of a Geocache suitable for beginners near one of the University of Michigan's well-known landmarks, the Rock.

Part of the fun is getting to the treasure, signing the sheet, and replacing it with no one not in the know noticing-- for that reason, most Geocaches are placed in locations a little more out-of-the-way than this one. Some larger caches have various items in them, and players are asked not to take anything unless they replace it with something equivalent for later players to find.

Sound like something you'd be interested in? Have questions? Check out the Geocaching FAQ.