Welcome to the International Cartographic Association
The ICA Executive Committee and Commission Chairs at the first meeting of the 2019–2023 term in Gent, BelgiumWelcome to the website of the International Cartographic AssociationView our poster series as a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals View our poster series as a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals
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Welcome to the website of the International Cartographic Association
View our poster series as a contribution to the Sustainable Development


Cartography and the visualization of GI have a long and well-documented history. Considerable research is ongoing into a range of issues which can be regarded as dealing with the history of cartography. These include the impact of map-making skills in societies throughout history, the way in which maps and GI have been used (both practically and for political and symbolic purposes), and the development of methods of production and the effect of changing technology.

In addition, historical studies have examined ‘progress’ in mapping (e.g. increasing accuracies, scale, content, reliability throughout history – although not necessarily unidirectional) and have also been concerned with the preservation of the artefacts themselves. Within these broad approaches, specific issues can be identified. The history of printing technology is of considerable interest; the role of colonial cartography has been immense, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries; the dichotomy between private and government mapmaking has been fluid over many centuries. Such specific issues can be added to by considering the way in which recent and contemporary history of cartography is being addressed. It is important to document the rapidly changing and artefactpoor recent history of GI science and digital cartography.

In addition to the history of cartography as a discipline, the role of cartography in history has been researched by cartographers. Here the task of mapping, the role of maps, the propensity to map and the resultant impact of maps on a wide range of other human activities have all been recorded.

Perhaps the most active research area currently which has links to this section is considering maps as cultural heritage, part of the patrimony and cultural inheritance of a society. But such maps are more than artistic relics – they are working documents which can be used for cultural investigation over a wide range of fields (including history, genealogy, archaeology, politics, architecture, sociology and geography). There are significant applications in this field for the application of contemporary digital techniques, and specialist geospatial databases have been created based on historical data, but capable of being examined using modern scientific cartographic analysis.