Illuminating text with maps – an interview with Robert Cribb

Given Robert Cribb’s long involvement with map-making, we thought it would be interesting to hear his thoughts and experience on the subject. To this purpose, we first interviewed him in December 2009 but sadly the film quality was not ideal. The interview was remade in March 2011 but is not complete due to lost material and other glitches. Accordingly, we have inserted a few clips from the original interview.

Because the interview is lengthy and covers a lot of ‘territory’, we have broken it down into a series of short film clips grouped under three topics.

The Cartographer

1) First encounters with map-making

Robert Cribb describes how he first became involved in map-making.

2) How cartography has changed in recent years

He describes the shift from traditional to digital cartography, the decline in cartography services for authors at universities, and the increasing power and sophistication of mapping software.

3) The case for digital cartography

He explains why he is a great proponent of digital cartography.

4) Challenges as a map-maker

Robert Cribb describes the challenges he faces as a map-maker.

5) Can a cartographer also be an historian?

He admits that he is well known as a cartographer but is also an historian. That said, have the maps taken over?

The Case for Maps

6) What maps offer

Robert Cribb describes what it is that maps offer as an adjunct to prose, and discusses their main strengths and weaknesses.

7) Do maps depict reality or create new realities?

He admits to being an empirical historian and responds to the concern of some that maps do not as such depict reality but rather create new realities.

On Map-Making

8) What you need to begin making maps

Robert Cribb describes what a scholar needs to begin making maps. He considers not simply the physical requirements but much more.

9) Why CorelDraw or Illustrator is preferable for map-making

He sets out the key benefits of using vector-based mapping/illustration software (like CorelDraw and Illustrator) and the shortcomings of image-editing software like PC Paint and Photoshop.

10) Copyright issues in map-making

Robert Cribb looks at what copyright issues there might be if you base your map on someone else’s work.

11) Dealing with uncertain borders in map-making

He discusses how to depict uncertain, fictitious or disputed borders on a map.

12) Map projections and their political implications

He describes map projections and explains how the size and shape of the land areas they depict can differ wildly (especially at the poles). He also warns that map projections may have political implications.

13) The place of geographic information systems in map-making

Robert Cribb looks at geographic information systems and explains why he doesn’t use them for his map-making.

14) Reference works on map-making

He regrets the lack of good reference works on map-making.