In January 1994 the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG) received a fax from the Office of the State Geologist of Rhode Island. It seems that they had put together a detailed geologic map and several smaller inset maps and cross sections as separate ArcInfo coverages. ArcInfo is a sophisticated program for doing GIS (geographic information system) research. It's a very powerful program but not terribly user friendly. They had also put together a large variety of descriptive data in standard word-processing files. Now what they were looking for in their fax was if anyone knew if this could be done or maybe even some state geologic survey that might have some vague idea as to how to get all these different types of computer files merged together and formatted into a final publication that would look like a traditionally drafted geologic map.
During the preceding year, NBMG had been busy developing procedures to do exactly what Rhode Island was talking about. So we faxed them back saying "hey, no problem, we do that." Well it turns out that they got only a few responses to their initial fax, and the majority of those said to forget it. Samples of our work were requested and they were impressed by what we had been doing in computer geologic cartography, so impressed that we were asked to prepare a formal proposal for an agency of the State of Nevada to produce the statewide geologic map for the State of Rhode Island.
Months of red tape passed and in early May a formal contract between the two state universities was signed so that NBMG could be reimbursed for our efforts. NBMG had been working hard to be in the front of changing technology in the production of full-color geologic maps and technical illustrations. But this was a wee bit bigger than anything we had attempted before. Actually the map was to be a massive 42 by 52 inches.
That summer was spent pulling the many files together into Adobe Illustrator 5.5 on a Macintosh Quadra 900. All the graphic files were completely reformatted. Line patterns were created, internal lettering was redesigned and replaced. Inset graphics were redesigned and replaced. Text files were imported and reformatted. As the work progressed, the staff involved learned even more about possibilities and continued to expand our capabilities. As the authors in Rhode Island saw what we could do with their ragtag files, they continued to want even more, better, prettier. The contract was expanded and extended. Most of the summer, Kris Pizarro, Cartographic Supervisor, Gary Johnson, GIS Specialist, and Susan Tingley, Publication Manager, wrestled with the task of turning a Rhode Island sow's ear into the fabled silk purse. By fall the sometimes impossible-seeming task had been completed, and the computer files were sent to a service bureau for generation of color separation negatives.
Rhode Island received the negatives for printing their map in time for Thanksgiving. Both states had reason for Thanksgiving that the project was finally complete. However, happiness was not to continue for Rhode Island. They suffered contract problems with their printer, followed by paper stock problems that took months of frustrating effort to resolve. But good things come to those who wait and in February of this year we received a phone call from Rhode Island. The final printed maps had finally been received and all involved pronounced them "BEAUTIFUL!"
Its been a great experience, working with another state geologic survey and university, stretching our capabilities to the maximum, and accepting a really great challenge and meeting it completely. Anybody out there know of any other states that need a geologic map published? Just give them our number. On second thought, maybe you could wait a few months and let us catch our breath. If you would like to talk to the Rhode Island folks or order the 1:100,000- scale map, call 401-792-2265.
--- Susan Tingley, Publication Manager/Senior Cartographer