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Views: Portraying Place and Space 2nd Exhibit from the David Rumsey Map Center, January 22 - August 31, 2017

The Natural Environment

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Picture of Organized Nature as Extending over the Earth, Charles Smith, 1828

Visualizing Earth’s nature in a single chart is no small feat. Charles Smith brilliantly succeeded with this chart diagram published in 1828, which was accompanied by a translation of Johann Wilbrand and Ferdinand Ritgen’s book titled, “Picture of Organized Nature, in its Spreading over the Earth. Translated from the German of Wilbrand & Ritgen.” The chart diagram combines several methods of information visualization. The heights of the world’s mountains are shown in a manner typical of C. Smith’s comparative views. Superimposed on the mountains are a series of lines that represent latitude from 0 to 90 degrees north and south. Crossing the latitude lines are straight lines of varying thickness, which show the appearance of flora and fauna at different latitudes. The central axis shows elevations from zero to 27,000 feet. Below the land are shown the inhabitants of the oceans. The whole effect is stunning not only in its visual presentation, but in its elegance in displaying complex information in an understandable way.


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Panoramic View of the Crater Lake , United States Geological Survey, 1914
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Panoramic View of the Glacier National Park, Montana, United States Geological Survey, 1914
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Panoramic View of the Yosemite National Park, California, United States Geological Survey, 1914
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Panoramic View of the Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, United States Geological Survey, 1914
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Panoramic View of the Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, United States Geological Survey, 1914

John H. Renshawe, of the U.S. Geological Survey, produced all of these (four above, one below) panoramic view of the national parks in 1914 or 1915. Seymour Schwartz and Ralph Ehrenberg note in The Mapping of America that by 1914 contour lines were the standard method for showing surface relief. Cartographers continued to experiment with alternative methods that would make the maps more accessible and understandable to a lay public. Renshawe chose to use graduated shaded relief on these maps, a technique that brings the maps to life. One immediately gets a sense of the three dimensional nature of the landscape allowing the viewer to see the topography, drainage patterns, vegetation, snow cover, and the beauty inherent in these parks. Renshawe’s technique would later be used by the Survey for the state map series as well.


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Greater Yellowstone. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Grand Teton, National Park, Wyoming, Heinrich Caesar Berann, 1991

Austrian artist Heinrich Berann created four panoramas for United States Park Service: North Cascades, Yosemite, Mt. McKinley, and Greater Yellowstone. This map of Yellowstone is oriented looking south towards Grand Teton National Park. Berann came from a family of artists and turned to creating panoramic maps early in his career. This interest in panoramas led to the creation of over 500 such maps during his career most of which were of the Alps. Panoramas such as these sit between cartography and art. They are now typically used for depicting ski areas and for visualizing landscapes.