Last week I heard that the London School of Economics Geography Department was disposing of its maps and that anyone interested was free to rescue them. My first reaction was one of surprise as maps are one of the few things geographers are associated with, so it doesn’t seem right to have a geography department without a map room. My more rational side, however, understands that a change of research priorities within geography, combined with the fact that all up to date maps are now stored digitally probably means that the map room drawers have remained shut for a number of years. As universities expand there is an increasing demand for space and the “use it or lose it” policy is likely to apply.

So it fell to a number of enthusiasts to save the maps. I think the majority have been rescued and will be given new life as posters, artworks or simply keepsakes to be pulled out and admired on a rainy day. Rifling through the maps was a bit like going through an old photo album. Snapshots from the past, such as maps showing the narrow air corridor in 1970s Germany

or the size of the Haut Glacier sildenafil d’Arolla glacier and famously retreating Unterer Grindelwladgletscher 75 years ago cast insights into a world before my time.

For something closer to home, I picked up some really nice maps from the “Phillips Series of Comparative Wall Atlases” (dated 1956) that show the summer and winter temperatures across the British Isles. I suspect that today we can add a couple of degrees to many of the contour lines drawn on the maps.

My favorite find is a couple of Ordnance Survey maps of the Greenwich Area dated 1917, though some lucky person had made off with the rest of London! Highlights from the maps include the “Thames Soap and Candle Works”

and detailed outlines of the housing.

If anyone knows what the colours mean I would be interested in hearing from them…

I think it is a real shame that such a great collection of maps has had to be broken up and I suspect LSE Geography will not be the last to send its maps to recycling. Still every cloud has a sliver lining and I am now trying to find the wall space to hang my newly acquired maps!

Thanks to Ollie O’Brien for the tip off about the map room giveaway.


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