4 - 5 December, 2014

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The ICA Commission on the History of Cartography held its 5th International Symposium at the University of Ghent in Belgium from 2-5 December 2014. The Symposium was jointly organised by

• the ICA Commission on the History of Cartography,
• the ICA Commission on Map Production and Geo-Business, and
• the Brussels Map Circle (BMC)

in collaboration with the Department of Geography of Ghent University, and the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). The various paper sessions were held at the University’s conference centre “Het Pand”.


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 The City of Ghent
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"Het Pand", a former Dominican monastery, now the official conference centre of the University of Ghent. 


To accommodate as many participants as possible, papers on other cartographic endeavours during the 19th century were also presented.  Members of the ICA Commission on Maps and Society participated, as did representatives of the USGS.  Papers on the development of photogrammetrical techniques in American sector mapping, the digital transition in US cartography during the 1970s, and the diffusion of USGS geospatial data for science research, demonstrated the Commission’s mandate to not only investigate and record the history of cartography, but also of GI Science.  The Symposium was attended by approximately 50 people.

Background: Geographic data has been subject to archiving in the form of maps for centuries. While the preservation of paper maps is well understood and put into practice, knowledge on the historical production process, and especially the pre-digital production process as it was practised by many National Mapping Agencies (NMA) during the 20th century, is disappearing and has hardly been documented. The last witnesses of this era, people and objects, will be gone in just a few years.

The aim of the First Workshop (2013) was to bring this problem to the attention of European National Mapping Agencies, academic institutions, museums, private companies, ICA members, and other interested parties and to ask for their cooperation in addressing this situation. The aim of the Second Workshop was to create a European platform to investigate this matter and to propose a concrete plan to preserve and open up knowledge on cartographical production processes during the 20th century.

The ICA Commission on the History of Cartography pledged its support for this venture and undertook to investigate to what extent pre-digital map production processes and procedures have been archived and documented by National Mapping Agencies.


The general theme of the Symposium was


The Symposium was open to cartographers, geographers, historians, map collectors, academics and lay persons interested in the history of cartography, and was attended by 55 persons. The 29 papers were organized into the following 10 sessions:  

     Session 1: Military Cartography from the 18th - 20th Century (1)

     Session 2: Military Cartography from the 18th - 20th Century (2)

     Discussion Session 1: The development of Aeuronautical Charts during World War I

     Session 3: World War I Cartography - Belgium

     Session 4: World War I Cartography - Britian

     Session 5: World War I Cartography - the Balkan States

     Session 6: World War I Cartography - Central Europe

     Session 7: Military Map Collections

     Discussion Session 2: General trends in World War I Cartography

     Session 8: The influence of World War I on Later Cartography

     Session 9: Military Cartography from the 18th - 20th Century (3)


The Symposium was attended by approximately 55 people. The majority of participants were from Europe (Finland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland Czech Republic, Croatia, Greece), whereas others came from as far afield as the US, the UK, Australia and South Africa.

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                                                                                                                   Mirela Altic (Croatia) in conversation with
                                                                                                                   Chris Board (UK) and Jim Akerman (USA)
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                            Soetkin Vervust and Philippe Demaeyer                           Caren de Coene and Joost Depuyt with Jan
                                                                                                                   de Graaff en Eddy Maes in the background   
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                                     Jürgen Espenhorst from Germany (left) addressing the Symposium audience in Het Pand.

To complement the Symposium, the former Map Librarian of the Royal Geographical Society in London, Francis Herbert, kindly exhibited approximately 50 military maps from his private collection. The maps covered various military events such as the Crimean War, the Boer War, the First World War, and the Second World War.

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                      Francis Herbert explains some detail on a military map to Imre Demhardt and Caroline and Paul de Candt.

The social aspect of the Symposium was well catered for with a guided visit to the “In Flanders Fields Museum” in Ypres which is dedicated to exhibits relative to the First World War, followed by dinner and the attendance of the daily Last Post Ceremony. The conference dinner took place on Thursday 4 December after a guided visit to the Mercator Museum in St Niklaas.

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                                            The daily Last Post Ceremony in Ypres commemorating the fallen in the Great War.
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              Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres

The third volume in this series which comprises the Proceedings of the Commission’s 5th International Symposium will be published towards the end of 2015.

History of Cartography

International Symposium of the ICA Commission, 2015

Series: Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography 
Subseries: Publications of the International Cartographic Association (ICA) 
Elri Liebenbert; Imre Josef Demhardt; Soetkin Vervust (Eds.)

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