There are four preliminary assignments, one major assignment, and a blog required for the course. All of the assignments should either be part of a website (a web portfolio) that includes a home page and navigation to the various assignments or be included in your blog. (The instructor’s preference is for a website but understands that not all members of the class may have the necessary skills.) At the conclusion of each assignment, a link to the assignment should be forwarded to the instructor for inclusion on the instructor’s course page. In addition, you are required to make one post to your blog each week as well as one comment on another’s post each week. Those who make more than one comment will have their names writ in heaven, e.g. the gradebook. Reference your comment by furnishing a text link (Comment on Steve's Post, #2: Great Comments on the Atlas) in your own blog to the permalink of the post.

The course assignments will be weighted as follows: (1) Historical Atlas Evaluation (15%); (2) Freehand Maps (15%); 3) “Rubber Sheeting” Project (15%); 4) Architectural Reconstruction (15%); (5) Blog—including posts and comments (15%); (6) Historical Atlas Project (25%); and (7) a self-evaluation (1 page, typed, single-spaced) assessing your performance in the course (not graded but required).

historical atlas evaluation (preliminary)

The goal of this assignment is initial preparation for the final project, a two- or four-page layout on a topic for print version of a historical atlas. To that end, examine several online and print historical atlases and evaluate their effectiveness. Make some general comments about what seems to work in atlases. From one of the texts, choose a favorite topic and analyze why it was especially interesting. How do the maps contribute to the topic’s text? What do the visuals other than the maps add to the presentation? How about the captions? Finally, assess the presentation: fonts, color, layout, and so forth. What is the word count of an average topical discussion? How many visuals and maps does an average layout use? Do the visual bleed to the edge of a page? Does the layout use a grid system? How does a focus on maps and other visuals illuminate history? Be sure to scan visuals to illustrate your discussion.

freehand maps (preliminary)

This is a two-part assignment. First, select a map that has some relationship to a historical debate, event, or question. Using your colored pencils or other drawing materials, draw a freehand map that enlarges or reduces the original. (Drawing for this assignment does not include trancing.) Once you have finished the project, scan the result and include it in your project with all the necessary cartographic information. Use pencils, paper, rulers and so for the first part of the assignment—not a computer.

Second, select a map that you think might be successfully adapted to a history project. (A map that would not scan well (or a poorly scanned example), a large map from which you only need a detail, or map that needs clarification or reconstruction are good candidates.) Using Illustrator, draw the map and add it to your portfolio. Again, be aware of cartographic conventions. Briefly reflect on your experience with the assignment in the text accompanying the maps.

“rubber sheeting” project (preliminary)

This project involves a technique variously called “rubber sheeting” or draping. First, go to one of the DEM purveyors and acquire a DEM of an area of historical interest. (A small area is usually preferable to an overly large one.) Import the DEM into Natural Scene Designer and produce a scene. (Be sure to add trees and so forth it they are warranted.) Next, acquire an overlay (topo, ground cover, or one of the other options) and drape the layer over the DEM. Rotate the scene to a new perspective and repeat. Natural Scenery Designer does nice “flybys,” so you might consider trying one. Once you have your minimum three images, include them in your portfolio and comment on your experience with the assignment, especially its applicability to history. What does recreating a historical topography suggest?

architectural reconstruction (preliminary)

In preparation for the historical reconstruction, select a Sanborn Insurance map and several photographs of the area represented in the Sanborn map that suggests a place of historical interest or interpretation. (Although a b/w Sanborn map from GMU’s electronic collection is perfectly acceptable, the colored versions are much more handsome; these are available from the LOC.) Second, select a neighborhood, building complex, or other area from the larger map. This portion of the Sanborn map will serve as the footprint for your architectural reconstruction. Finally, using SketchUp, reconstruct the historical area. Think carefully about how you want to present your reconstruction. Detailed? Schematically—something on the order of Monopoly houses? A combination of both? In the text accompanying your project, provide the historical background for your neighborhood, reflect on the process of completing the project, and discuss what you gained (or not) historically from creating an architectural reconstruction.

historical atlas project (final)

The final assignment is a prototype of a two-page or four-page spread for a historical atlas on a particular topic. Although class discussion will describe more fully the requirements, the prototype should include several of the following:

  1. a textual discussion of a historical spatial problem
  2. a digital map or maps drawn or created by the author that demonstrates understanding of cartographic principles and conventions
  3. mages or other visuals that illuminate, enhance, or illustrate the topic
  4. a chart, graph, or table
  5. a text or image document scan
  6. captions for all images, maps, or other visuals (charts and graphs, for example)
  7. attention to the requirements of print format: font, color, layout, image resolution, and so forth
  8. PDFs of pages added to digital portfolio or blog

It’s extremely important to get an early start on your historical atlas project. Let me say that again: start early. A project is the result of long hours and hard work. You can expect to spend at least eight hours each week on your work and more in the research phase. This is not said to spook you but to furnish a clear-sighted estimate of what is necessary.