Participants of the 28th ICHC Amsterdam 2019

The International Conferences on the History of Cartography


The International Conference on the History of Cartography [ICHC] is the only scholarly conference solely dedicated to advancing knowledge of the history of maps and mapmaking, regardless of geographical region, language, period or topic. The conference promotes free and unfettered global cooperation and collaboration among cartographic scholars from any academic discipline, curators, collectors, dealers and institutions through illustrated lectures, presentations, exhibitions, and a social programme. In order to expand awareness of issues and resources, each conference is sponsored by leading educational and cultural institutions. Conferences are held biennially and are administered by local organizers in conjunction with Imago Mundi Ltd.

Information about Proposing and Organizing an ICHC

A Short History and a Survey of the Conferences

Compiled by Douglas W. Sims (1964-1995) and Peter van der Krogt (since 1997)

At the International Conference on the History of Cartography in Lisbon in 1997, Doug Sims distributed several copies of what he described as “a largely unedited first draft” of the following manuscript: The International Conferences on the History of Cartography: A Short Historical Survey and a Bibliography of Papers (Brooklyn, New York, 1995; 36 pp.).

This survey includes a history of these conferences, general information about each conference, and lists of all the papers presented. Because much information about the earlier conferences was uncertain or unavailable, the survey was incomplete and could not be published and distributed. The internet now gives us the possibility of “publishing” a work-in-progress and to ask readers for corrections and additions. Doug has sent me his files and I have adapted them for the internet.

I continued adding the information for the conferences of 1997 and later. Please send corrections and additions (and photographs, especially of conferences before 1987) to me.

Delft, July 2001, Peter van der Krogt

N.B. The abbreviation “ICHC” was introduced c. 1999, but became commonly used since it was used in the e-mail addres of the 2001 conference (19.ichc @ and in the logo for the 2003 conference.

A Short History of the ICHC by Douglas W. Sims

Douglas Sims The 20th International Geographical Congress, London, 1964, was an impressive affair. It was the largest IGC in history, with seven sections and 45 sub-sections, as well as 23 related symposia, which took place before and after the main congress, at various locations throughout England. The main congress was opened by the queen of England herself, and was attended by various other dignitaries.1 Among the symposia was one on the history of cartography, which would afterwards come to be referred to as The First International Conference on the History of Cartography (ICHC, or ICHoC).

This symposium had not been among those originally listed in the first circular for the congress,2 although there had been a sub-section “History of Cartography” under the main congress section “Cartography.” For various reasons, there occurred several changes in the number and arrangement of sections and symposia of the congress, and in the second circular,3 which was compiled in late 1962 and distributed in May 1963, the history symposium was added, while the historical sub-section under “Cartography” had been retained as well. Not long after, this redundancy was noticed, as were some other irregularities in the program, and still a third, and final, circular was sent around, in which the symposium was retained, but the old sub-section was finally dropped.

Who was the originator of the first ICHC?

It is often stated that the first conference was organized by Raleigh Ashlin (Peter) Skelton and Gerald Roe Crone: “A Symposium on the History of Cartography, directed by Mr. G. R. Crone and Mr. R. A. Skelton, was held at the Royal Geographical Society on 17-18 July 1964).”4 Skelton, Superintendent of the Map Room of the then British Museum, and Crone, Librarian and Map Curator of the Royal Geographical Society, had long worked closely together. Nevertheless, in the Skelton biography in the Geographical Review 62 (1972), at p. 134, it is stated that:

“For this occasion [the 20th IGC] Skelton . . . was convener of the symposium on the History of Cartography, which preceded the congress. This meeting was so successful that a second, also under his leadership, was held at the Royal Geographical Society in 1967. This was the origin of the International Conferences on the History of Cartography.”

Again, in a notice on the origin of the congresses in Imago Mundi 40 (1988), p. 56, it is said that the symposium was organized by Skelton “with the collaboration of G. R. Crone.” But Helen Wallis, on p. 82 of her biography of Crone in Imago Mundi 37 (1985), asserts:

“It was at Crone’s invitation that some fifty participants at the XXth International Geographical Congress held in London in 1964 met on 17 July at the Royal Geographical Society for a Symposium on the History of Cartography,” although she adds that it was “organized jointly by Crone and his long term friend and colleague R. A. Skelton.”

The well-known Swiss historian of cartography, Franz Grenacher, part of the 3-member main editorial committee of Imago Mundi with Skelton and Koeman from 1962 to 1970, also credits the convening of the symposium to Crone, and does not mention Skelton (Kartographische Nachrichten 20 (1970): 24b).

Skelton was on sabbatical leave in 1962-63 at Harvard University’s Widener Library, serving as consultant and Acting Map Curator.5 It seems that Skelton could hardly have been deeply involved in the earliest arrangements occurring in London in late 1962 and early 1963, and the Skelton correspondence seems to confirm that his active role in the preparations began only after his return from the sabbatical. The earliest efforts resulting in the formation of the original symposium must have been carried out by Crone.

Both clearly expended much effort on the event once Skelton had returned, assisted by Helen Wallis, and it was a great success. They continued to work together, along with others, on the second and third conferences, in 1967 and 1969, although it would appear that Skelton’s role in those was probably more active than that of Crone.6

The success of the symposium in 1964 led to a second, London, 1967, which was referred to as a “conference on the history of cartography,” as, for instance, in the Geographical Journal 133 (1967), p. 575, but still not as “The second.” The third, however, in Brussels, 1969, was referred to from the start as “The Third International Conference on the History of Cartography,” as, for instance, the advance notice in Imago Mundi, 21 (1967), p. 110.

The first known photo of an ICHC: the opening session in Edinburgh in 1971 (photo from Cartographic Journal 9 (1972): 12)


Besides the main sessions, there have been other activities at the conferences, most conspicuously the exhibits, and, beginning with the third conference, excursions, as well as various receptions, visits, etc. There have also been, beginning at least from the seventh ICHC, Washington, D.C., 1977, meetings of various specialty groups, not officially part of the conference, but occurring during its tenure, or just before it. Meetings of the International Cartographic Association’s Commission on the History of Cartography took place at ICHCs from the 1977 Washington conference to the 1983 10th conference at Dublin, and beginning at the 11th ICHC, Ottawa, 1985, this became a three-part meeting. The Ottawa conference introduced a section on the teaching of the history of cartography, which has continued strongly to the present, and a section each on cartobibliography and cartochronology, the latter two of which have apparently lapsed as of the 14th conference. Also, at the 1983 Dublin conference first occurred a meeting of what has become to known as the International Society of Curators of Early Maps (ISCEM), which has flourished. The Lisbon conference introduced two more special gatherings: a meeting of the directors of Imago Mundi, and a round table on theoretical aspects of the history of cartography.

An aspect of the ICHCs which has changed is the distribution to attendants of full texts of papers to be given, which was done through the 12th ICHC, Paris, 1987. Complete success in this had never been achieved, since there were always some speakers who failed to submit the required paper, and as many as a quarter of those who did distributed papers without footnotes (Imago Mundi 33 (1981): 95). Perhaps for these reasons the practice has now ceased, although individual speakers may still provide papers, and many do so.

  1. See the photograph of the queen giving her opening address as the frontispiece of The Geographical Journal, 131 (1965), and also as the frontispiece to the 1967 published proceedings of the congress (see note 4 below).
  2. The first circular is not an easy item to find, but it was reprinted in full in the Newsletter of the International Geographical Union, no. 13 (1962), pp. 3-20.
  3. International Geographical Union 11th General Assembly and 20th International Geographical Congress United Kingdom July-August 1964: Second Circular, [London, 1963], pp. 41 and 59 (title from cover).
  4. Imago Mundi 18 (1964): 91. The same is stated in Imago Mundi 25 (1971): 11a, as well as in the notice for the history symposium in the second circular (see note 3), at p. 59, and in the 20th IGC proceedings proper (20th International Geographical Congress, Congress Proceedings, ed. J. Wreford Watson [London, 1967], p. 251), and in other places.
  5. Alberta Auringer Wood, Professional Papers, Correspondence, etc., of Raleigh Ashlin (Peter) Skelton (1906-1970): Collection 59 in the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives in the Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John’s (St. John’s, Nfld., 1989, p. [5] (in the “Biographical Sketch”).
  6. Concerning Skelton’s correspondence and papers on the second and third conferences, 1967 and 1969, see Wood (note 5 above), pp. 31-33 and 33 respectively