Paper: The Map as a Fundamental Source in the Memory of the World

The paper has just been published on the UNESCO Site.

The Map as a Fundamental Source in the Memory of the World

Tracey P. Lauriault, Postdoctoral Fellow, Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC), Carleton University, Ottawa. Email: tlauriau @ gmail . com

D. R. Fraser Taylor, FRSC, Distinguished Research Professor and Director of the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, Carleton University, Ottawa. He is also a member of the CODATA Data at Risk Task Group. Email: fraser_taylor @ carleton . ca


The central argument of the paper is that maps and spatial information have been fundamental facet of the memory of societies from all over the world for millennia and their preservation should be an integral part of government digital data strategies. The digital era in map making is a relatively recent phenomenon and the first digital maps date from the 1960s. Digital mapping has accelerated very rapidly over the last decade. Such mapping is now ubiquitous with an increasing amount of spatially referenced information being created by non-governmental organizations, academia, the private sector and government as well by social networks and citizen scientists. Unfortunately despite this explosion of digital mapping little or no attention is being paid to their preservation and, as a result, what has been a fundamental source of scientific and cultural information, maps, are very much at risk. Already we are losing map information faster than it is being created and the loss of this central part of the cultural heritage of societies all over the world is a serious concern. There has already been a serious loss of maps such as the Canada Land Inventory and the 1986 BBC Domesday Project of 1986 and mapping agencies all over the world are struggling to preserve maps in the new digital era. It is somewhat paradoxical that it is easier to get maps that are hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years old than maps of the late 20th and early 21 centuries. This paper examines the challenges and opportunities of preserving and accessing Canadian digital maps, atlases and geospatial information, which are cultural and scientific knowledge assets.

Lauriault, T. P. and D. R. Fraser Taylor, 2013, The Map as a Fundamental Source in the Memory of the World, UNESCO The Memory of the World in the Digital age: Digitization and Preservation Conference, Vancouver, 2012.

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