THE ROLE OF TOPOGRAPHIC MAPS IN CARTOGRAPHY TEACHING
Cartography teaching may put special emphasis on certain areas of cartography
according to scientific schools or universities and may be different from country
to country: this professional emphasis in teaching depends on which subject
area is placed in the middle of interest, which again greatly depends on the
cartographic-geographic traditions of the country. The major subject areas may
include geodesy, land administration, GIS, map publishing, or even map history.
Due to the rapid technological development in the past few decades, the form of topographic maps has been greatly renewed by the 21st century, and their use became many-sided. Naturally, these changes in the form and creation of topographic maps had to be expressed in teaching too. The demonstration materials, the homework for students or analysing field trips at various levels of education now may need even some technical background or equipment.
At the university, students get familiar with three types of general maps: they are the cadastral, topographic and geographic maps. The role of these types of maps may be quite different according to the specialization programmes, and even some of them may be completely left out: for instance, those who specialize in geodesy may hardly learn anything about the geographical maps. In this respect, the topographic maps form a category that cannot really be dropped from the curriculum of any training of cartographers, surveyors or geographers. The reason is that the importance of topographic map is evident in all these trainings, and particularly because the national topographic maps serve as the basis of all national geographic information systems. In addition, these maps may be used as the geometric basis of new map, and may also often be used as background to the thematic maps.
Topographic maps are also important tools in the teaching of history. Detailed, precise surveys of areas date back to several centuries. There were historical events that can only be represented and explained by using such maps the scale of which belongs to that of topographic maps. The paper or computerized maps became generally used products in archaeology too. Public administration counts more and more on various information systems that are built on these maps. As a consequence, being familiar with the topographic maps (in various depths) has become a requirement in quite a lot areas and directions of training.
I. The main purpose of topographic maps is to help orientation on the terrain.
The defence and economy need maps for this purpose, but the demand of maps from
tourism or recreation is rapidly increasing.
The general knowledge and use of topographic maps may greatly differ from country to country. The demand of map use and the development of surveying methods met or their relationship became balanced for the first time in the 17th century. Map-making was rather considered a technical science and was not so much associated with art any more. The experiences of the wars of the time convinced the military and political leaders that they absolutely needed reliable and detailed maps if they wanted to achieve military success or first of all to defend their own country. Formerly, the battles of war were fought on the big and open terrains. The development of military technique, the development of artillery and the interest of manoeuvring large troops greatly increased the importance of all information about the terrain. Good quality maps could only provide this information. This explains why the detailed topographic maps were all secret documents in the beginning, and they were available for those people only who were authorized by the state or the ruler to have access to them. Sometimes longer periods of peace followed the wars. In these periods the leaders gradually recognized that several state tasks and affairs need the access to the detailed maps and that it was not practical to make direct use of the topographic maps in wartime only. These needs for detailed maps were later, in the 20th century generated by some other professional tasks and activities, such as tourism and communications.
Today, the topographic maps are everyday tools in lots of countries, although there are countries where only a limited number of selected people have access to them. In general, in those countries that lack democracy or whose state structure is rather archaic, topographic map making strictly remained the monopoly of the state. These maps are usually classified products and are only available for a closed circle of people.
This was basically the situation in the ex-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe too. The picture, however, has quickly changed after the great political changes in the region. The state regulations of the availability of and the access to topographic maps have been particularly modernized in those countries that joined the NATO. Probably, those countries that join the NATO recently will open the access to their topographic maps. However, NATO membership does not necessarily mean that the topographic maps are freely available. For instance, this access to topographic maps is rather restricted in Turkey and Greece.
Naturally, there exists a direct relationship between the classification of topographic maps and the map culture in a country. In Scandinavia, first in the world, the topographic maps have been freely available since the middle of the 19th century, and now these maps are simple tools of everyday life. In those countries, however, where the people had to wait quite long until the topographic maps became open to the general public, a longer period is needed until the map users discover and get familiar with the new opportunities offered by these maps. These opportunities are open not only for the map users, but also for the mapmakers. In this way, the real competition of maps on the market can only develop in those countries where the access to the state base maps is not restricted any longer.
In school education the orientation on the terrain and the demonstration of navigation are among the first topics of geography or related classes. The school children may become familiar with the basics (the cardinal points, geographical coordinates, map legends etc.) when they are only 10 or 12. Naturally, in higher education it is generally not necessary to concentrate on introductory terms, but the practice definitely depends on the map culture of the country.
The teaching of cartography in higher education institutions must include the subject of topographic maps; they have to be taught in details with special emphasis on the topographic maps of the country (scale system, legends etc.). A great part or the whole of the scientific-technical parameters (such as the projection system, reference surface, sheet system) of the topographic map system is public. Normally, sample sheets are used in teaching those who will have the right to access topographic maps, but these demonstration maps are usually used to teach the map symbols only and they often do not represent real areas.
In higher education it is very important that the students be able to compare and analyse the maps and reality as well as the various maps and images. Students have to practice and develop the orientation skills on the terrain; this is the most effective way of getting familiar with the topographic maps of the country and understanding that the topographic map system is a complex product of various technical procedures. The creating of an optimal legend system is a complex cartographic task, which is greatly influenced by the cartographic conventions of the country. The large-scale survey maps and the medium- and small-scale maps derived from them make up a complete system, where the various terrain objects are represented differently according to the map scale. (For instance, objects represented by area symbols will be shown as point-like elements in smaller scales.) It is one of the most interesting, most complex and most important tasks of cartography teaching at university to teach these relationships and their technological background to the students.
II. In the technologically developed countries the topographic maps are completely
in digitised form, and the continuous updating or revision (in harmony with
the changes of the terrain) is also digitally executed. Not only cartographers
and geographers work with such maps in modern offices every day. Maybe the maps
themselves are not even printed on paper; the map-user can simply print out
the actual content from the digital store (print-on-demand). Keeping the maps
content up-to-date is again a complex task, which can hardly be carried out
effectively without the participation of the state. In general, the less developed
countries have already started digitising their topographic maps, because everybody
realized that digitising might be cheaper on the long term than using the traditional
methods. In addition, digital maps offer other advantages too.
If a publisher wants to use the state topographic maps as base-maps for producing maps on the market, then the publisher usually will have to pay for this. In the western European countries, there are only very few tourist or city maps that were published without making use of these state base-maps. It is just natural that if the content of the state topographic base-maps is of good quality and regularly updated then the publishers will leave the base-maps unchanged and will only complete them with the necessary additional information (street names, marked tourist paths, sights). These maps can be very well used in teaching too: the differences of the various types of topographic maps can be easily shown and the process of reconnaissance and map-revision can be demonstrated.
In the most advanced and densely populated countries the digitising of large-scale (1: 5000, 1: 10 000) topographic maps has been completed, and the map-users now require the frequent and short-cycled revision of these maps. In those countries, however, where the financial means are less available for this purpose, or the reliable financial and organizational background of the continuous map-revision has not been created, the digitising of larger scale topographic maps has not been completed yet. As a consequence, the private publishers produce such maps the representation methods and scales of which are different from that of the state topographic maps.
The GPS receivers are more and more available, and this is a great help for these countries, because the use of GPS speeds up the process of map-revision. Therefore, those cartographers who work with topographic maps have to have a comprehensive knowledge. In addition to general cartographic knowledge, they have to be very well familiar with the computer science and GPS techniques if they want to be able to fit the calculated data and measurements in the coordinate system of the new maps to be published. Practicing such exercises may be an interesting part of the curriculum for cartographers in higher education institutions, because these exercises would demand a synthesis of all what they have learnt.
III. The use and availability of web maps is a great advantage, because the map users can get up-to-date and reliable information without meaning any danger for the whole or a smaller part of the expensive database, because the map servers can assure the safe publication of data. This can be set as a good example of the servicing state. The maps can be stored in rasters or vectors, but it seems that in most cases the civil or military cartographic institutions that supervise the state topographic mapping trust in their own map server, which they have developed for themselves. Those topographic maps that are available through the web offer several advantages for the training of cartographers:
At present, only a small number of countries can and want to make use of these
advantages offered by the new technology. Naturally, those countries that restrict
the access to topographic maps do not publish their topographic maps on the
web either. Some other information (such as space images, which are as detailed
as the topographic maps) is also accessible on the Internet. Of course, they
cannot be considered topographic maps, but they can excellently complete the
maps and sometimes they can also be used for correcting the maps. These images,
however, are generally available on payment only.
The topographic maps are usually placed on the Internet just to satisfy the interest of non-professional map users or tourists, who do not wish to use the maps on a database level. They only print the maps in the window of the monitor. Nevertheless, these systems offer something extra: they indicate the coordinates (normally the geographical coordinates) of the map system on the monitor, and this is important for the interest of the increasing number of GPS users too.
Finally, here are some European Internet addresses where the topographic systems of the countries can be seen. (In some cases plug-in modules may be necessary, but they can be freely downloaded from the homepage.)
Austria - www.austrianmap.at
Czech Republic - mapy.atlas.cz
Denmark - www.kms.dk
Hungary - www.topomap.hu
Norway - ngis2.statkart.no/norgesglasset/default.html
United Kingdom - getamap.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/getamap/getamap_index.htm