The Cartography Center of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) started in October of 1941 with hand-drawn maps that plotted the geographic data of World War II. The Center today harnesses more advanced, digital technologies, but the goal remains the same: to visually convey data in a way that will be understandable for a broad intelligence audience. For the Center’s 75th anniversary, the CIA announced last month that it was releasing several albums of declassified maps, which represent its decades of activity, onto Flickr. From the Russian front of 1942 to the threatened elephant populations of Africa in 2013, the maps are an archive of American involvement in global conflicts and crises.
The CIA states on its site that the Center’s “chief objectives are to analyze geospatial information, extract intelligence-related geodata, and present the information visually in creative and effective ways for maximum understanding by intelligence consumers.” As Greg Miller at National Geographic noted, one of the images shows President George W. Bush and members of his staff viewing a CIA map on September 29, 2001, reflecting a period when the terrain and cartography of Afghanistan was surveyed ahead of the American invasion.
Likewise, each map is a time capsule of that era’s international issues. The 1940s include a 1942 map of German dialects, and a 1944 map of concentration camps in the country. The 1950s, with innovative photomechanical reproduction and precast lead letters, saw maps on the Korean War and railroad construction in Communist China. The 1960s are punctuated by the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam War, while the 1970s, with increasing map automation, contain charts of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Arab oil embargo.
The 1980s maps involve the Falklands War and the Iran–Iraq War, while the 1990s, through newly sharp 3D perspectives and animations, have maps addressing African and Central American humanitarian emergencies, as well as the location of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). More recently, the 2000s digital maps analyze conflict in the Middle East and nuclear developments in Iran and North Korea, and 2010s maps examine the allocation of water resources in Mexico, and malaria risk in Southeast Asia.
“A map should be aesthetically pleasing, thought-provoking, and communicative,” stated the CIA Cartography Center’s founder, Arthur H. Robinson. And intelligence maps are a distinct design challenge, as they can influence governmental strategy and policy. However based on President-elect Trump’s disinterest in intelligence briefings, perhaps it’s time for the CIA to enter a new era of covert Tweeting for this administration’s cartography needs.
Below are some examples of the declassified CIA maps, along with cartography tool photographs that represent the early years when Office of Strategic Services (OSS) cartographers created their maps by hand.
The committee’s main responsibilities will be to shape policy goals, stimulate arts philanthropy, and advocate for the expansion of federal backing of the cultural sector.
Some museumgoers pointed out that the museum’s label omitted discussions of HIV/AIDS, which are at the heart of the work.
Featuring over 70 installations and performances at the George Washington University’s historic Flagg Building, the Corcoran’s end-of-year showcase is now available for virtual viewing.
But a museum in Harvard is still named after a member of the disgraced family, notorious for its role in the opioid crisis.
Parker’s stories bring so many of her works alive, give them meaning, and make us warm to her and to them. Is that a problem?
Artists reflect on histories of oppressive power structures in Brazil in this exhibition at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
The works, and worlds, on display in Hancock’s exhibition seem saturated with a desire for narrative redemption through self-observation and aspects of his Christian upbringing.
The problem with Andrew Dominik’s biopic Blonde is its assumption that Monroe’s victimization was the most fascinating thing about her.
When I recently came across Sandra Cattaneo Adorno’s photo book Águas de Ouro, I could hear the waves and boomboxes, and even taste the salt on my lips.
Works by over 70 artists of the pan-South Asian diaspora were up for auction to help Pakistan’s most vulnerable communities in a women- and queer-led initiative.
The board of 70 Washington Street in Brooklyn, which previously housed an artist residency, is weighing the replacement of Helen Brough’s “Emulated Flora” with generic photographs of Brooklyn landmarks.