History 615


License Plate Map…
October 27, 2010, 4:11 pm
Filed under: History 615

It’s map/automobile related…so I have to post it, right?



Cartography in the 20th Century
October 27, 2010, 12:21 pm
Filed under: History 615

This week I made a significant effort to do ALL of the assigned readings.  And read it all I did (with the exception of a few pages that I skimmed through in the chapter “Consuming Maps” by Diane Dillon).  As I lay here starting to write at almost 2 AM, I’m struggling to tie all the readings together and come up with something insightful to say.  So in hopes that maybe it’ll help, here’s a sentence or two on each.

Dillon:  Focused on maps as consumer products throughout most of modern history, not just the 20th century.  From personalized atlases to board games, Dillon traces maps in consumer culture from their origins as luxury items all the way to present day “cartifact” novelty items.  In doing so, she also looks at the production and distribution of maps, and how that shaped map consumerism.  I thought the traveling atlas salesman’s pitch was especially interesting.  A map as described by him didn’t have to be a true representation of reality, but the reality that you wanted it to be.

Schulten:  Discussed Fortune magazine’s architect turned cartographer, Richard Edes Harrison and how his maps, published in the 1940’s, revolutionized cartography and the way the American map consuming public understood their location in relation to the rest of the world.  Throwing the Mercator projection out the window, his use of polar projections and the like, emphasized North America and the United States centrality among conflict elsewhere in the northern hemisphere.

Akerman:  Analyzes the role of road maps throughout the early and mid 20th century in shaping America’s automobile centric identity and “national motorized space”.

Cloud:  Talks about secret and classified programs during the Cold War and the role they played in geographic and cartographic advancements in America during that period.  Explained how such programs like CORONA were able to “conceal its secret roots as it reveals that secret’s fruits” as he puts it.  The three technologies he focuses on are the World Geodetic System (WGS 84 is the standard reference coordinate system today), photogrammetry, and GIS (originally MGIS).  Interesting, but really technical even for me.

Newberry Library:  Discusses Cold War maps as they appeared in popular magazine or other news publications as propaganda and how they were able to influence and direct popular opinion towards the “red menace”.  Features 7 such maps from Time and Life magazines and splits them up as representations of three general Cold War map propaganda categories; advertising maps, metaphor maps, and redeemable communist maps.

There’s probably lots of directions one could go in making sense of all this.  You could make connections across the readings and consider how much maps in the 20th century were driven by capitalist interests, such as  the case in the Akerman reading of gas stations and other local businesses producing road maps.  I think for me one of the most interesting things about maps in the 20th century is how much they were affected by incredible advancements made in travel and transportation.  Harrison’s decision to map the world in the way that he did was certainly influenced by the rising importance of aviation.

One of the things that really struck me in Akerman’s analysis of 20th century American road maps, was that in a way, the maps themselves not only preceded the American highway system, but essentially established it.  For me this is in a sense the complete opposite of the way I normally think of maps.  In my mind, maps are still primarily representations of of reality, of spatial phenomena across the surface of the earth.  OK, I get the concept that there are many maps out there, such as the propaganda maps which aren’t necessarily meant to be used as reference sources, and can be distorted to suit a map makers intentions, and therefore are not truly accurate representations (although I guess what map truly is an accurate representation).  Yet here with Akerman and the roads maps, is a case where the representation is creating that which it is supposed to be representing?

I don’t know.  I’m starting to lose myself here…and I’ve been trying to write something for long enough as it is.  I’ve got to go to work…



Harpers Ferry flyby video
October 20, 2010, 9:31 pm
Filed under: History 615

I spent some time last night playing around with the fly by camera stuff in NSD.  It’s not really as hard as it looks.  Below is my video.  It starts out at the top of Maryland Heights and works its way down to the west behind Fort Duncan where it curves around behind Bolivar Heights.  From there it comes down to ground level and heads down the road towards Harpers Ferry.  The first half is intended to give the viewer an overview of the Union defenses in Harpers Ferry and the second part which starts at ground level is sort of and attempt to position the camera from the perspective of those who intended to take Harpers Ferry.



Fun with NSD and Harpers Ferry…
October 16, 2010, 2:54 pm
Filed under: History 615

I actually started experimenting more in depth with Natural Scene Designer last weekend, was having fun, and just kind of kept going with it, putting off other stuff (like the Martin Brückner reading).  I had wanted to post this up last Tuesday, but just never got around to it.

So here’s my map I started with…

You may recognize it from one of my earlier posts (but without the elevation contours).  Its a military map of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia from 1863.  The map comes from The Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, which was also the source for the “Routes and Positions” map I used in my Illustrator made freehand map.  Again, the map can be found here…

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~26871~1100170:Military-map-showing-the-topographi

While the topography here at Harpers Ferry is no Grand Canyon, I feel that when combined with this map in NSD, it makes for some really fascinating views and perspectives and adds a whole new element to the historical analysis of Harpers Ferry during the Civil War.

To give you a sense of the overall topography, here is the map after I georeferenced it in ArcMap and overlaid it on top of the elevation data in NSD.

I tried to get as much of the map as I could to line up properly with the elevation data, but seeing as how this map was produced in 1863, its unlikely that I would be able to get all parts of the map to match perfectly.  There are areas where the topography in the map suggests there should be cliffs but in the scenes they are on flat ground (such as the eastern banks of the Shenandoah), and train tracks running on the edges of hillsides (such as those seen in the views from Fort Duncan), but I think that really these are only minor issues and don’t really takeaway from the overall use of the maps.

So below you will find all the scenes I’ve created from different locations across the map.  I tried to make sure that I picked camera locations that produced views from significant spots such as military positions or hill tops.  I haven’t had the time to test out the flyby camera functionality yet, but maybe that is something I will try to do before next week when this assignment is really due.  We’ll see though, I’ve got a lot of reading to catch up on and thinking to do about my final project topic…

The following are pictures generated from key military positions on the Maryland side of the Potomac starting at the six gun battery on Maryland heights and working downhill and to the west from there.  All are oriented so that they look towards the town at Harpers Ferry.

Looking down on Harpers Ferry from the six gun battery on Maryland Heights…

View of Harpers Ferry from the naval battery which you can see just down and to the right in the image above…

Views looking East/Southeast towards Harpers Ferry/Bolivar from Fort Duncan…

I also wanted to get some shots from the Union line in between Bolivar and Harpers Ferry.

Looking east towards Maryland and Loudoun Heights from the Union line defending Harpers Ferry…

Looking west towards Bolivar from the Union line defending Harpers Ferry…

When you consider the rivers to the left, the right, and the river junction behind you, it appears that the Union had a nice, well defended triangle with only one direction to really worry about being attacked from (as seen in the picture above).

Now the Civil War generally doesn’t fall under my area of historical interest, and therefore my knowledge of that period is somewhat limited, but I do know this.  Harpers Ferry is steep in Civil War history and was definitely a major place of interest as it changed hands between the Union and Confederacy multiple times throughout the war.  It was not only the location of an arsenal, but with several key railroads coming into and through the town, it was a very important location to maintain along the supply line to Virginia.  Looking at the map, Harpers Ferry seems pretty well defended by Union troops, and the pictures above I think just reinforce that notion.  For a town that seems to be so well defended, its odd to me that it could have been taken back and forth like it did.

So what if you were to attack Harpers Ferry?  If you were to attack from the SW, which because of the terrain and the rivers surrounding the town would most likely where you would be coming from, the following are pictures of what you might see…

Looking east towards Harpers Ferry from the northern part of Bolivar Heights…

Not a whole lot of room to work there.

This is probably my favorite scene, the main route to Harpers Ferry via Charlestown Pike…

In the foreground you can see Union front lines on Bolivar Heights, and further back you can see the Union lines closer to Harpers Ferry, Fort Duncan in the top left across the Potomac, the proposed Union position to the right of Fort Duncan, the naval battery to the right of that, and the six gun battery higher up to the right of that.  Not a very welcoming site if your goal is to take Harpers Ferry from those who occupy it.   But in the picture above you also see Loudoun Heights in the top right.

A quick internet search on the Battle of Harpers Ferry, and it appears Loudoun Heights may have been key.  And for good reason, check out the views below…

Looking down on Harpers Ferry from Loudoun Heights…

Imagine Union troops at the main line at Harpers Ferry trying to fend off Confederate troops coming from Bolivar with artillery raining down from Loudoun Heights behind you…

Apparently at the main battle of Harpers Ferry, Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson and the Confederate troops managed to surround the Union forces in that forementioned triangle that seemed so well defended in the pictures above.  After taking Loudoun Heights he ordered an artillery barrage from said location onto the Union forces hunkered down at Harpers Ferry, forcing them to surrender.  The Union simply had nowhere to go.  The Confederacy didn’t have to partake in a full on attack of those Union troops defending the town.  The topography allowed the Confederacy to seige Harpers Ferry instead, as one would a castle, which I think is essentially what Harpers Ferry had become.

While technically I could have figured all of this out by really scrutinizing the original map, viewing the map as it would appear naturally on the surface just illustrates it all in ways I probably wouldn’t have envisioned otherwise.

So after all this I few tips I have for working in NSD…

1) Try adjusting the placement of the light source.  The default placement in NSD seems to be from the SE corner of the map.  Yet standard practice is generally for the light source to be placed in the NW corner of the map (see http://www.reliefshading.com’s design section on light direction here).  Make sure you also try the interactive light direction tool with the Grand Canyon here so you can get a better feel for how much light direction can really change how you read and perceive elevation in a map.

Look at my picture below and then look at the one I posted at the top.  In the picture below the terrain appears to be reversed, and the mountains look like valleys.  In the picture below the light source was in the SE.  In the picture at the top the light source was in the NW.  It wasn’t until after I rendered ALL of my other pictures and rendered the scene below that I realized something was wasn’t quite right with the light direction.

The light directions is less of an issue though when you render pictures at ground level, but it can make a difference and sometimes it may be better not to have the light source in the NW.  Look at the two pictures I rendered below.

Both are views taken from Loudoun Heights looking down on Harpers Ferry.  The one on the top has the light source set from the SE and the on on the bottom has the light source set at the NW.  In this specific case I think having the light source set to the SE makes the scene more effective in that it creates shadows and therefore better portrays how high Loudoun Heights actually is above the river junction and Harpers Ferry.  So try adjusting the light source and see how it changes your scenes.

2) When you render your picture, set your “Anti-aliasing” and “Maximum Levels” bar as high as your computer will allow.  It takes more time for the picture to be created, but I found that the pictures were of much better quality. 

3) NSD only gives you limited functionality for placing and adjusting non-georeferenced overlays.  If you are using a USGS map that you downloaded with your elevation data, that map already has Lat and Long coordinates associated with it and you have nothing to worry about.  If you want to use a historical map or some other map without a coordinate system associated with it though like I did, you may have a harder time getting your map and the elevation data to match up.  Essentially you can make your overlay bigger or smaller, but I couldn’t find a way to rotate it in NSD.

I didn’t try this, but I think the following would probably work as sort of a georeferncing work around.  What I would suggest if you want to use another map is to bring that map and a USGS map into photoshop.  Apply a transparency to your map and then reshape, resize, and stretch your map so that major features such as rivers, boundaries, roads, or other easily identifiable features match up with those on the USGS map.   Then in NSD you can bring in your USGS map using the “Import DRD or DOQ” and then bring in your map using the “Import Overlay” option.  Then all you have to do is line up your adjusted map with your USGS map and then get rid of the USGS map.

4) Pick a large scale map (something at a local level/more detailed).  Use a 24K (1:24,000) USGS map if you are going to use one of those, not a 100K (1:100,000).  It’ll probably be less difficult to match up with the terrain and when you render your pictures the text and other features on the map will be more legible.

And now I have some final project research to do and some reading to catch up on…



Sneak peak of what I’ve been doing in NSD…
October 13, 2010, 12:51 am
Filed under: History 615

I just thought I’d share a preview of the work I’ve been doing in Natural Scene Designer…

I’ve really kind of been enjoying working with this software.  I’ll have much more to post later, probably sometime late tomorrow night (working then heading to the Caps game tomorrow…C! A! P! S! CAPS! CAPS! CAPS!).  I think I might have a few tips or tricks type stuff I’ve learned while working with NSD the last few days too, so if your interested make sure you check back for the full post.  Just thought I’d throw something up here now though since I haven’t posted since this past Thursday.



“Freehand” maps…
October 6, 2010, 11:42 pm
Filed under: History 615

I’m always fascinated by the local history of my hometown.  So it’s no surprise I decided to stay close to DC with my maps for this assignment once again.

Hand drawn map –

I can’t draw.  Simple as that.  Given that fact, what made me think that I would be able to take on a birds eye view map is beyond me.  I chose this map though because…a) it fits in with my old town Alexandria, VA theme I have going on here…b) I have a framed print of this map hanging on the wall in my apartment…and c) while this map looks great hanging on a wall (at least I think so), there are no labels on it, and therefore it can only offer a limited amount of information.  So I decided to try to replicate it and add labels so the reader would have a greater idea of what they were looking at other than just “Alexandria”.  Unfortunately though, my hand drawn map didn’t turn out quite as well as I would have liked.  When I started I had this grand vision of what I was going to draw…I was going to label all the streets, pick out a few of the more landmark buildings, maybe even try to draw a ship or two.  But a few hours in I realized that that just wasn’t going to happen.  I tried to mimic the original as much as possible (which in hindsight maybe was the wrong approach).  You would never guess looking at it, but I spent a whole Saturday afternoon and evening drawing this map.  So in the end this will have to do.

Here’s the original map…

Here’s my hand drawn version…

And just for fun here’s the same view today from Google Earth with the 3D buildings layer turned on…

Illustrator Map –

For my map done in Illustrator I flipped through my copy of The Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies and decided on a map showing the Union’s First Corps, Army of Virgina’s route across Northern Virginia in the late summer of 1862, stopping to take part in the second battle of Bull Run along the way.  The map shows the First Corps main route, specific locations they stopped at and their positions on specific dates, numerous landmarks, and limited hydrographic and railway features.  What it doesn’t give you though is an overall context of where this map is situated.  It reminded me a little bit of the 1837 Ioway map we looked at a few weeks ago.  I essentially took this map and tried to make it more geographically accurate to give the reader a better sense of the distance traveled and where.  The locations are accurate per lat/long.  Yes, I used ArcMap to make my basemap and plot out the points, so I guess technically its not really completely “freehand”.  All of the actual finishing though was done in Illustrator.  I’m much more happy about the way this map turned out than my hand drawn map.  It’s not perfect, for example my map lacks railroads, and the rivers are just a shapefile downloaded from USGS (way too detailed), but I think it gets the job done.

Here’s the original…

For some reason I’m having trouble downloading the image from David Rumsey’s collection.  I’ll check back there again at some point later and see if I can get it to work and I’ll update it here then.  For the time being you can find the map in the bottom right hand corner of the plate shown here…Map of Routes and Positions.  Never mind…here it is.

And here’s my map I made in Illustrator…

Overall I think these were challenging but worthwhile assignments.  I have much more respect now for those who for centuries drew maps by hand, and I’ve gotten a little more comfortable working in Illustrator again, which I haven’t done a whole lot of the last two and half years.