Cartographic heritage is a component of the overall world's cultural heritage. It concerns specifically all the valuables which are or may be inherited from historic cartography and maps. It concerns also all the cartography heirs who are the receivers of the benefits offered by cartography, maps and mapmaking of the past. Cartographic heritage issues are thus addressed not only to experts but also to society and to the general public.
The digital approaches to cartographic heritage is a meeting area of modern cartography digital mainstream and of history of cartography, maps and mapmaking.
The multifaceted Cartographic Heritage, is a very important and continuous part of the World’s overall cultural heritage, offering a variety of benefits and advantages to our modern cartographic science and technology, and to its future, enriching and strengthening the interest and concern not only of experts dedicated to Cartography and Maps but also of the society and of the general public. This can and should be done today taking full advantage of all the possibilities which are profusely available by modern digital information and communication technologies. In this way, the fascinating domain of our rich and profound heritage in mapping and mapmaking (as documented in the long history of cartography and maps) acquires a new dimension and broadens considerably its audience.
Bringing together the ensemble of cartographic heritage with the digital mainstream we not only comply with the international policies on cultural issues in the conceptual and the operational sense (e.g. most of the projects on cultural heritage financed by the European Commission obeys the digital precondition!) but more, we offer the grounds for the attraction of young researchers who are already familiar with digital technologies and are interested in or fascinated by history. But, the Cartographic Heritage venture, although sounding innovative and full of daring is not easy at all. The fundamental difficulty, especially in our days, is mainly of cultural nature.
Here, we try to bring together two "worlds" of cartography: on one side the historians, the learned or the literate, those dealing with the humanistic component of cartography and the others who deal with the everyday cartographic practice, the scientists and the engineers of cartography. Between these two "worlds" of cartography, the divergences and the disputes are not new at all! Remember e.g. the conceptual difference, some centuries ago, even in the meaning of the "new word" cartographe in French and cartographer in English, the "historian of maps" and the "mapmaker" respectively, or, further back in history, the different conception of the sentence "writing the earth", γράφειν τήν γήν (grafein tēn gēn) in Greek, as it was meant by Eratosthenes, Strabo or Ptolemy (in the ambiguous ancient Greek sense– grafein means both the textual and the graphical description).
Of course some retorts here are to be expected, not by definition unfounded, based on several negative arguments, like e.g. the old stereotypes that,
- a) it is utopic to try to bring together these two different "worlds" of people, even if at the end their subject is common,
- b) the different roots of cultural background conducting these two distinct groups obstacle a possible convergence and some other, relevant or irrelevant.
But even if, on one hand, this "separation" is fully understandable, on the other hand it is more than obvious today that the dialogue and the convergence of the two "worlds", if well prepared, is more than a necessary conditio sine qua non which at the end will offer only benefits! This obvious condition is mainly based on the apprehension of the cardinal changes the digital revolution is introducing to our modern societies and cultures, and especially to the new generation’s way of thinking, viewing, feeling and producing.
It is so radical the impact of the digital revolution, that Euclid’s statement twenty three centuries ago, that ...everything material on earth can be described by numbers (digits)… sounds more than prophetic!