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History

An Online Atlas Tracking Disappearing and Endangered Languages Across the Globe

February 12, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

The Yi alphabet, a script created during the Tang dynasty in China (618-907 AD), all images via the Atlas of Endangered Alphabets

The Yi alphabet, a script created during the Tang dynasty in China (618-907 AD), all images via the Atlas of Endangered Alphabets

In 2016 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that 2019 would be the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The declaration’s goal was to raise awareness for disappearing language systems around the world, while mobilizing a coordinated global effort to help preserve them. At the time of the meeting it was estimated that 40% of the world’s 6,700 languages were at risk of disappearing. This threatens the history of the associated cultures, while also erasing thousands of years of knowledge systems valuable for protecting the environment, peace making, and national resource development.

The Endangered Alphabets Project is a Vermont-based nonprofit organization that supports endangered, minority, and indigenous cultures by helping to preserve their writing systems. For the past six years they have researched and compiled information on endangered languages, exhibited artwork using the cultures’ sayings, proverbs, and spiritual texts, and partnered with organizations to publish educational materials and games in endangered languages. Through their research they have also created an interactive website that tracks these languages across the globe. The Atlas of Endangered Alphabets is a clickable map compiled from languages across the world. Many of these scripts do not have an official status in their country, state, or province, and are not taught in government-funded schools.

“My goal is to include scripts from indigenous and minority cultures who are in danger of losing their sense of history, identity, and purpose and who are trying to protect, preserve and/or revive their writing system as a way of reconnecting to their past, their dignity, their sense of a way ahead,” explained Tim Brookes, the founder and president of the Endangered Alphabets Project. “A traditional script is a visual reminder of a people’s identity—as we can tell by the number of cultures that continue to use their script as an emblem (on printed invitations, on shop fronts, even on the national flag) long after most people have stopped using it for everyday purposes.”

As a general rule, the atlas is guided by Article 13 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which says: “Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.” The project is therefore not necessarily about the language, but about the people that speak and continue to carry these writing systems as tradition.

You can begin your own search into writing systems and their origins, or take a look at a list of languages the atlas needs help researching on their website. (via Kottke)

An oil barrel sculpture installation with Afaka script which reads "Save our Drinking Water" by Marcel Pinas

An oil barrel sculpture installation with Afaka script which reads “Save our Drinking Water” by Marcel Pinas

An example of Mandombe, an indigenously-created script of sub-Saharan Africa, which is said to be the only writing system in the world that looks like a brick wall.

An example of Mandombe, an indigenously-created script of sub-Saharan Africa, which is said to be the only writing system in the world that looks like a brick wall

"The One and The Many" is a 24-tonne sculpted granite boulder by artist Peter Randall-Page inscribed with many of the world's scripts and symbols. It includes Bassa Vah, an alphabet for writing the Bassa language of Liberia (highlighted in light grey), among many others.

“The One and The Many” is a 24-ton sculpted granite boulder by artist Peter Randall-Page inscribed with many of the world’s scripts and symbols. It includes Bassa Vah, an alphabet for writing the Bassa language of Liberia (highlighted in light grey), among many others

A bilingual plaque in Portuguese and Javanese

A carving by Tim Brookes in Ojibwe, a Canadian Aboriginal syllabic language

A carving by Tim Brookes in Ojibwe, a Canadian Aboriginal syllabic language

A street sign in Thaana, the script of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, image by Eric Lafforgue

A street sign in Thaana, the script of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, image by Eric Lafforgue

A Siddham manuscript of the Heart Sutra

A Siddham manuscript of the Heart Sutra

 

 



Science

GPS Map Composed of 68,000 Pinpoints Tracks the Territorial Nature of Minnesota Wolves

January 31, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

The Voyageurs Wolf Project is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park which tracks and studies wolves throughout the warmer months. In 2018, the project studied six northern Minnesota packs, creating a map that showcases the intensely territorial way the animals behave, and how tightly they stick to their packs. The brightly colored line drawings were composed from 68,000 GPS locations of the six packs, with negligible crossover between the data-driven formations.

Not only does the information help researchers track where wolves have been, but also which prey the wolves have killed. “This detailed GPS-data is incredibly valuable for understanding pack boundaries and also for our predation research,” explains a post from the Voyageurs Wolf Project. “We visited every spot these wolves spent more than 20 minutes to determine if the wolves made a kill. This required an estimated 5,000 miles of hiking this past summer from our field crew!!”

After the original map circulated widely, the team decided to bring the information to life, which you can observe in the GIF below. The moving image includes data from April 15, 2018 to the end of October of the same year, with GPS locations taken every 20 minutes. You can follow more data collected by the Minnesota-based team on Facebook. (via Twisted Sifter)

 

 



Art Design History

Contemporary Cartographic Explorations Fuse with Historic Maps in Digital Works by Scott Reinhard

January 14, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

Yellowstone National Park, all images courtesy of Scott Reinhard

Yellowstone National Park, all images courtesy of Scott Reinhard

Scott Reinhard combines contemporary land elevations with historic maps to create three-dimensional environments of a specific region, city, or state. To produce the digital maps, he pulls elevation data from the United States Geological Survey, which he then embeds with location information and merges with the original design of the old maps.

Producing these hybrids allows the Brooklyn-based graphic designer to gain a better sense of the topography found in large areas without aerial photography, while also developing a story from the cartographic information. He often selects locations he has personally visited or is generally curious about for his digitally produced works. “I am from Indiana, which always felt so flat and boring,” he explains to Colossal. “When I began rendering the elevation data for the state, the story of the land emerged. The glaciers that receded across the northern half of the state after the last ice age scraped and gouged and shaped the land in a way that is spectacularly clear.”

By visualizing the history that shaped a location’s composition at a large scale, Reinhard is able to notice trends in the environment in a more localized way. These forces affect how we traverse our daily environments, but are hard to comprehend without taking the time to zoom out, or look at from above. “As a visual person, I was most intrigued by the ability to visually harness data and create images that helped me gain insight into locations,” he continues. “I felt empowered by the ability to collect and process the vast amounts of information freely available, and create beautiful images.”

Reinhard was introduced to the methods he uses in his digital maps through Daniel Huffman’s website Something About Maps. You can see more of Reinhard’s digital works on Instagram and buy select high-quality prints, on his website. (via This Isn’t Happiness)

Teton Range

Teton Range

Yosemite

Yosemite

State of California

State of California

Southern California

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina

Glacier

Glacier

Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens

Acadia

Acadia

 

 



Art

Swirling Networks of Sliced Paper Emerge From Altered Secondhand Books by Barbara Wildenboer

September 18, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Barbara Wildenboer (previously) delicately cuts and extracts the pages of old books to produce sculptural explorations of the contents inside. Thinly sliced paper fragments frame world maps found in old atlases or appear like a nervous system in an altered copy of Functional Neuroanatomy. The works are part of an ongoing project titled the Library of the Infinitesimally Small and Unimaginable Large, to which she has been contributing altered books since 2011. The series uses the site of the library as a metaphor for the larger universe, while also focusing on the decrease of printed materials as a result of the digital age.

“Through the act of altering books and other paper based objects the intention is to draw emphasis to our understanding of history as mediated through text or language and our understanding of the abstract terms of science through metaphor,” Wildenboer explains on her website.

The Cape Town-based artist sources her books and maps from secondhand bookshops and flea markets from around the world, looking specifically for publications that have illustrations, paper quality, and subject matter that might be interesting to slice and transform. This November she will open a solo exhibition at Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg which will be followed by another solo exhibition in March 2019 at the their London location. You can see more of her paper-based sculptures and collages on her website and Instagram.

 

 



Design

A Plush Rug Recreates the Grids and Greenways of Manhattan in Colorful Wool

May 22, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

To make it a bit less exhausting to walk across New York City, South African furniture designer Ollie de Wit has recreated the island of Manhattan in a plush, colorful rug. Different pile heights are incorporated to create a sense of dimension, differentiating low-pile streets and waterways from medium-pile housing blocks and tall-pile treetops. The 2 x 3 m (approximately 6.5 x 10 feet) wool rugs are limited to an edition of 25 and are available in Shift Perspective’s online store. You can see more of the studio’s projects and design inspiration on Instagram. (via Colossal Submissions)

 

 



Animation Design Photography

Grid Corrections: A Short Film Shows How Straight Roads Bend to Respond to Earth’s Curvature

January 31, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

That the flat Mercator projection maps we encounter in classrooms show a distorted view of our spherical planet is fairly well-known fact at this point. But the real-life application of grids on the earth takes a subtler form with the grid system of roads that defines much of the United States’ travelways. Dutch photographer and filmmaker Gerco de Ruijter created a short film called Grid Corrections that brings together dozens of aerial shots of rural roads. The film demonstrates how the grids are merged to accommodate the earth’s curvature through sharp dogleg turns every 24 miles. Grid Corrections will be screened at the Grasnapolsky music festival, which is February 2 – 4 in the town of Radio Kootwijk, The Netherlands. (via Kottke)

 

 



Art Illustration

New Bic Ballpoint Pen Portraits on Vintage Maps and Stationery by Mark Powell

September 25, 2017

Christopher Jobson

Working atop faded street maps, vintage National Geographic magazine covers, and decades-old stationery, London-based artist Mark Powell (previously) draws the wrinkled contours of his subject’s faces with a standard black Bic ballpoint pen. The weathered portraits of both famous and anonymous people reflect his antiquated canvases both in texture and tone as he traces the topographies of their faces across literal street maps or paper materials that have traversed the world. Powell’s drawings have grown in both scale and detail over the years, magnifying the impact and density of each piece. You can see more of his recent work on his website where he sells a number of prints and quite a few originals. (via This Isn’t Happiness)