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Arno Peters: Radical Map, Remarkable Man Review by Kathy Gelzer

ODT Maps, Inc.
PO Box 134
Amherst, MA 01004

This 30-minute DVD is a biography of German historian Arno Peters (1916-2002) who in 1974 created an equal area projection map showing exact landmass, which was "fair to all people." This was in response to the popular Mercator map, the classic world map published by Rand McNally with which we are all familiar.

The Mercator Map, originally made to show navigational routes in 1569, distorts the sizes of countries and continents. I was fascinated to learn that South America is almost twice as large as Europe and that the former USSR is only about three quarters the size of Africa. You would not know this looking at the map hanging in our schoolroom!

In the film's interviews, Arno Peters voices strong opinions. He believed all world history texts were wrong, and he wanted his map to be the one and only map. Be aware that there is a clip from an episode of the West Wing TV show that features the Peters map. One of the actors utters, "What the hell is that?" when she first sees it.

Bonus features at the end of the DVD include video resources and out-takes, movie trailers, 13 public service announcements based on the UN's "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," audio resources, plus PC extras accessible through your computer. Much of this material is non-map related. The movie trailers are from political and environmental documentaries.

Although it is stated that maps have a political agenda, I would suggest that we turn down the paranoia and admit that, generally speaking, maps are made by imperfect people who are simply trying to project an image of the world as best they can with the knowledge and abilities they possess.

In addition to this DVD that I was asked to review, there is a bulk of maps and literature available from ODT Maps, Inc. I would heartily recommend Many Ways to See the World, another 30-minute DVD from the publisher, which clearly shows how many types of maps can be used to highlight certain world features-and, at the same time, how each map diminishes or skews other features.

One thing I really wish the Arno Peters DVD had covered is how Arno Peters actually went about creating his map.

Arno Peters: Radical Map, Remarkable Man is an important DVD that explains the challenges of accurate world cartography to all ages. I think it teaches a valuable lesson in world geography and bears serious consideration by those who want to educate their children about the problems inherent in map-making. It certainly made our family think more about maps.

Product review by: Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2008