Who are the next generation of cartographers? What draws them to this part science, part artistic expression, part design discipline? Many cartographers of the past and those working today often talk about an early love for maps and how something about their graphic form drew them to the field. Some of the most famous mapmakers, geographers and computer scientists, who created our modern Geographic Information Sciences, if given the chance, will go on and on about an early love for the simple folded map. John Snyder (1928-1997), the inventor of perhaps the most complex map projection ever devised, for example, wrote page after page in small notebooks during his youth, sketching maps, projections and landscapes.
Another cartographer, Eduard Imhof (1895-1986), who was certainly one of the most artistic of the twentieth century and the person who developed most of our modern ideas about relief representation, wrote emotionally about his early years as a boy looking at maps and walking outside, sketching the mountain landscapes of his native Switzerland.
Was it the ease of graphic construction, the fact that four colors suffice, or something in the ability of maps to reduce the chaos and complexity of a three-dimensional world into two planar dimensions that first entered their minds? Whatever it was the lure and aesthetic pull of maps continues to excite budding cartographers and draws them to the collections here at the Library of Congress. Last week one of those youthful cartographers, Lucas Cropper, all of 9 years old, visited the collections here at the Library in order to get a first hand look at some of the maps he had only previously seen in books.
Today anyone interested in maps from a very young age is exposed to a whole host of computer mapping interfaces (think of Google Earth or Map Quest), open source Geographic Information Systems and video games that employ mapping as central theme. Many of these games utilize complex mapping algorithms that use multiple three-dimensional viewpoints that build on modern theories of mental and cognitive maps. Minecraft, an extremely popular online game, and one of Lucas’ loves, uses blocks to create landscapes and has opened up a world of mapping possibilities as game players, digital geographers and cartographers build both fictional and real landscapes. Lucas’ own maps tend to draw on these themes and combine both real and imagined territories (what map isn’t part both).
Whatever the inspirations and reasons for these youthful explorations into cartography are, perhaps, what Lucas wrote to me about mapping and the collections here at the Library of Congress after his visit says it all,
It is not only a bunch of books, maps and artifacts. Its imagination, curiosity, thought and discovery….and about HAVING FUN…..
Indeed Lucas, it surely is….