Collection development and exploitation
The issue of digital archiving and the question of the permanent preservation of the nation's record of topographic change continues to occupy UK map libraries. It is sufficient to say that the Ordnance Survey (OS) topographic database project is proceeding apace, with total digital coverage at the 1.250 scale for urban areas expected to be complete by mid-1992. The value of BRICMICS as a forum for UK map libraries and archives has become apparent in this matter, and high-level contacts have been established with the OS with the objective of making available the large-scale plans on a feasible substitute for conventional chart-paper media, most probably microfiche. The Office of Arts and Libraries are at least aware of and sympathetic to the problem; more significantly, The Royal Society is also now interested in the maintenance of a publicly-accessible historical record.
BRICMICS has also triumphed in Ireland. Thanks to the efforts of Paul Furgeson of Trinity College, Dublin, the official representative, supplies of Irish copyright mapping is now secured, at least for the immediate future.
Cataloguing and automation
Progress on automation has been slower than hoped for, due to a combination of funding cuts, technical problems and political
difficulties. Bad news was received at the beginning of 1990 when Edinburgh University announced that it had closed down GISAI, the body it had established to market and develop CARTONET, and had made the staff redundant. Barbara Morris was processing current orders, however, and was hoping to maintain CARTONET through a consultancy which would be licensed by the University. A BRICMICS proposal for a UK Cartographic Materials Records Database was mooted via the BLRDD, with the objective of attracting support from the EEC. This has become embedded in the EC's Framework Programme, where it bas been neither accepted nor rejected.
In the meantin1e two other projects are under way -Manchester University's 'All about maps' project has captured data on 1/3 to 1/4 of the 120,000 records involved; the university is currently looking at alternative means of data capture in order to speed the conversion up. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) Map Library has accepted its software from SCICON, and bas so far converted some 160,000 records as part of a project which is expected to take 3-5 years to complete.
For the future, a specification and timetable has been drawn up for the retrospective conversion of the map catalogues of the British Library. These will include the existing 16-volume printed catalogue, as well as the map holdings of the Department of Manuscripts and other areas, an .estimated 300,000 records in a1l, encompassing the core historical collections. Work is due to start next year, for completion by 1995/6. The converted catalogue data will be incorporated with the existing 12,000 records of the current Cartographic Materials file on BLAISE.
Conferences, meetings and symposia
Despite ever-tightening restrictions on institutional travel budgets, British map curators were able to maintain a lively and active programme of meetings and activities throughout the period, thanks in no small part to the Map Curators Group of the British Cartographic Society. Visits included the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon, the Port of London Authority, the Hydrographic Department at Taunton and the Garnett and Clinker collections of railways maps at Brunel University Library. Both the British Cartographic Society's annual technical symposium in September and the Edinburgh three-day cartographic event in November continue to be vital for the exchange of ideas and information. This year's BCS symposium has been held at the University of Newcastle-upon- Tyne, and was preceded by a special map curator's workshop on the theme of aspects of map care.
A particular valuable series of seminars, Maps for local studies, has been organised jointly by the BCS Map Curators Group and the Local History Group of the Library Association. Past topics discussed have included such varied subjects as tithe maps, map conservation, mounting map exhibitions. Another map seminar is due to be held in December 1990.
- In March 1989 the British Library Map Library launched its exhibition What use is a map?, focussing on the novel and ingenious ways in which cartographers through the ages have portrayed information for the benefit of diverse and specialised groups of map users -cyclists, soldiers, treasure-hunters, statesmen, mariners, gold- prospectors and many others.
- In August 1990 the National Library of Scotland opened The Hebrides Surveyed, an exploration of these remote Scottish islands through the eyes of the map maker supplemented with satellite imagery, aerial photographs and surveying instruments. An interesting new idea here is a quiz based on the exhibition, the prize for which is a holiday for two in the Western Isles.
- The Guildhall Library, London, launched a very attractive exhibition entitled Recording the Risk, about fire insurance mapping, from June to August 1990
- whilst in the autumn of 1988 we saw the huge and impressive Panoramia exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery.
A heartening trend has been a growing number of map exhibitions organised by institutions not normally associated with maps. Examples of these include Mapping the landscape, held at Nottingham in June and July 1990, organised by the Casle Museum and the University as part of the Nottingham Festival, and the London Transport Museum's highly successful Finding the way -100 years of the London Transport map.
UK map librarians have been particularly active in promoting their collections and services through the medium of publishing. Following on from their success with World Mapping Today in 1988, Chris Perkins and Bob Parry have recently produced a compendious work on map librarianship in all its aspects entitled "Information sources in cartography" (Bowker-Saur, 1990).
The British Library's Catalogue of Cartographic Materials 1975-1988 was published in 1989, both in microfiche by the British Library and in a three-volume hard copy by K.G. Saur.
An encouraging trend has been the promotion of key elements of various collections through the fusion of academic expertise and commercial acumen. Thus The Pont manuscript maps of Scotland, the 16th century originals held by the National Library of Scotland on which volume 5 of Blaeu's Atlas Major was based, was published by the Map Collector. The British Library Map Library's collection of Ordnance Surveyors Drawings 1789-ca. 1840 appeared on microfiche, issued by Research Publications Ltd.
Archives International have just published the IOLR 's notable collection of Surveys of the shores and island of the Persian Gulf 1820-1829, whilst Wychwood are currently preparing a series of colourful portfolios of facsimile maps entitled Map treasures of the Bodleian Library.
The Hereford Mappamundi
No account of mapcuratorship over the last two years would be complete without a brief mention of the Hereford Mappamundi. This, an unique wall map dating from ca. 1290 made by Richard of Holdingham in Lincoln, has been in the possession of the Dean and Chapter of Hereford Cathedral probably since the map was completed there. In November 1988 the story broke that the map was to be offered for sale by auction at Sotheby's in order to raise some £ 3,000,000 towards the cost of a new roof. Needless to say, had the auction gone ahead, the map would almost certainly have been obtained 'by a foreign buyer. The result was a storm of protest from the National heritage Memorial Fund, the British Library, the National Art Collection Fund and others over the fact that they had not been consulted over the sale, with much other opinion contributed concerning the map's immense historical value. Indeed this was probably the first time that an antiquarian map became the subject of questions in the House of Common, pronouncements by the Archbishop of Canterbury and even an editorial in The Times: 'As a particular important part of the English Heritage, the Mappa ought if at all possible to remain in England, on public display, and preferably in Hereford. Its ancient and original link with that city is part of the Mappa's identity. As a work of art, it gains from being at Hereford. It is, so to speak, the only proper frame for it; it is its home'.
Because of the protest, the map was withdrawn from sale. Another money-making idea was hit upon: to ;privatise; it. The Cathedral offered £ 1,000 shares in the map, of which only 992 of the target 7,000 were sold. The rock group Dire Straits were invited to record a single about the map but this perhaps fortunately never materialised. Meantime the map was on display in the British Library so that at least the general public – including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh- could see what all the fuss was about. The display included an 18th century drawing featuring the map as part of a triptych. This led to the discovery, in an outhouse of the Cathedral, of the map's original frame which confirmed its original purpose as an object of public veneration.
To conclude the story, by November 1989, a rescue package has been worked out -£ 2,000,000 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, £ 1,000,000 from the Getty Foundation. The roof would be repaired and the map would be the centrepiece of a permanent exhibition in its native town of Hereford.
James D. Elliot, British Library Map Library