Michigan State University

On The Grid: Transformations in the Roles and Technology of Military Mapping

WWII grid system map detail

Now through July 2018
Main Library, 4th Floor, West Wing

The early 20th Century saw the first coordinated efforts to produce detailed mapping of the entire world, exemplified by the International Map of the World (IMW). The IMW was a collaborative project among international governments, intended to provide an objective, top-down view of all the globe's land areas in approximately 1,000 sheets, to be referenced like an encyclopedia by a general audience. With the onset of World War I, however, the progress of collaborative and governmental mapping--and of worldwide cartography in general--would be transformed by military interests, specifically the immediate need to provide soldiers with the ability to accurately translate their surroundings to a map.

Military agencies were responsible for many of the cartographic innovations--and much of the map production--of the 20th century. This exhibit presents several examples of 20th Century military maps from the collection of the MSU Map Library, with particular attention to the grid-based systems that were central to progress in military mapping throughout the century.

Exhibit produced by Tim Kiser and Kasey Wilson