British Cartographic Society Mapathon and Symposium 2014

The British Cartographic Society’s (BCS) GIS Special Interest Group recently held their first ever Mapathon at Marwell Hotel, Winchester. The Mapathon kicked off 3 days of mapping and would bring together a range of mapping experts each with different skills and experience before presenting them with a map challenge.

The day started with Rob Sharpe from ESRI introducing the Mapathon before delegates from Esri UK, Ordnance Survey, Steer Davies Gleave, OMV (UK), HR Wallingford, DMB, SIL International, Esri Inc and DGC were given their objective for the day. Using data provided by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission we were asked to help create maps to commemorate and educate people about World War One. The data included information on cemeteries, number of casualties, cemetery type and location and so on.

For a good five hours some of the best heads in cartography munged, pulled, manipulated and styled a wealth of geographic information in order to be crowned Mapathon winner (and win a prize money just can’t buy). At 3 pm all cartographers had to put their mice, scribers or pencils down so that the judging could begin.


Mapathon is underway

In first place were John Mckay and Edyta Korczynska from Ordnance Survey who, in conjunction with Hampshire County Council, came up with two ideas. John and Edyta focused on a small section of the data and created an overall map layer which could then be linked to individual story maps.

By using a sample of the information they were able to present a map of Germany depicting the locations of cemeteries divided into separate layers for WW1 and WW2 with sample imagery and links to the CWGC website for further information. They also added an additional layer for the sites of significant battlefields, which could then viewed by the user as a story map presenting further historical information such as dates, locations, who was involved and so on.


John and Edyta’s entry

Hampshire County Council produced a product incorporating the entire data set and focused around linking social media to the site locations.


Hampshire County Councils entry 

John and Edyta said

We enjoyed ourselves on the day as well as the preparation beforehand. It was interesting working with the other participants, learning new techniques and having the chance to use additional software. First place was very much unexpected.

We (Paul Naylor and Christopher Wesson) came in second place, after producing a heat map of Northwest Europe depicting the number of war casualties from WW1. Added to this was some hill-shading created using the number of casualties buried at each cemetery (as opposed to a height value). We also planned to add symbology representing the nationality of those buried at the cemeteries, but unfortunately ran out of time.


Paul and Chris’s entry

In third place were Alice Gadney (OMV UK Ltd), Josh Weiland (Steer Davies Gleave) and  Alison Hopkins (HR Wallingford). The day was a great success with everyone embracing the challenge set to them. The BCS plan to hold more special interest groups with plans afoot for Mapathon 2. Watch this space.

If the Mapathon was the entrée to three days of mapping then the BCS Symposium was the main course. Running from 25-26 June and entitled Capture, Create and Communicate, the 50th British Cartographic Society Symposium saw a number of cartographic professionals and enthusiasts come together to hear and participate in a range of presentations and workshops. 

Wednesday morning began with an excellent session of presentations on Geography, Generalisation and Grids where we were treated to talks from Canterbury Christ Church University, 1Spatial and Europa Technologies. After coffee the first workshops began. Paul attended an excellent workshop led by Leica Geosystems on the use of unmanned aircraft in mapping whilst Chris attended a workshop led by OCAD Inc. on the visualisation of GIS data in OCAD cartographic software.

The second workshop session saw Paul give a workshop on mapping Marwell Zoo using QGIS and QML files and Chris attend a workshop led by Mary Spence entitled from Data to Design. After lunch, the next presentation session began on Travel & Exploration where we heard presentations from Steer Davies Gleave & SplashMaps, The GeoInformation Group and OMV UK Ltd.

Wednesday closed with a black tie gala dinner and the BCS Awards, which includes our own OS OpenData award. This year’s OS OpenData award went to Global Mapping and Alan Smith for the entry ‘Visitors Map of Charnwood Forest Regional Park’, a folded map designed to promote the National Forest and Park.


Vanessa Lawrence presenting Global Mapping with the OS OpenData Award 

Thursday began with a session of presentations on Landscapes, Mountains and 3D where we were treated to talks from The University of Nottingham, British Antarctic Survey and ESRI Inc. After a quick break delegates had the choice of participating in a debate on the cultures of cartography, attending a demo on tips and trick using MAPublisher in Adobe Illustrator or visiting the Ordnance Survey head office.

After lunch the BCS President, Peter Jones gave his address on The Adventure of the Great Circular which told us that cartography is by no means dead. The last presentation session then began on Create, Curate and Collaborate  where we heard presentations from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, OCAD Inc. and the Library of Congress.

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