Charles Close Society AGM

(online), 8th August 2020

Contours: lines of subversion?

This talk followed the Society’s AGM and was an extended rework of the one given last December at the British Library (see below). It encompassed an artist’s appreciation of contour lines and their changed role from the 1800s to today.  The talk was illustrated with sketches, manuscript and printed maps, many by the Ordnance Survey.

Hutchison & MacGregor, Military Sketching and Reconnaissance (1878). Image use with thanks to the Wohl Library of the Institute of Historical Research

Lines on a Map: Crafting and Contesting Borders in the Early Modern Atlantic and Beyond, a two-day conference at the British Library

The British Library Conference Centre, 96 Euston Rd, London, NW1 2DB.

13-14th December 2019

Lines of Subversion?

Is a 15min talk and panel discussion on the Saturday afternoon. ‘Lines on a map’ are most often associated with borders or boundaries: ‘owned’ land. Other types of line denote route or conduit: road and river. Contrary to these, isolines on maps respect no borders, they offer instead an aid to our perception of connectedness. This paper will focus on contour lines, their peculiar genesis and changed role from the 1800’s to today. Contour lines travel across countries regardless of borders, they enable the map reader to do likewise, and suggest a freedom of movement that could be read as subversive, yet historically one of their first uses was as visual aid to attack.

Free to attend, register at:

Rethinking Objects: New Directions for Premodern Materiality Studies

Newcastle University, Percy Building, NE1 7RU. 12-13th September 2019

Body Doubles: the body as substitute for landscape, flattened (as drawn object)

A ‘lightning talk’ on the Friday afternoon of the programme when the terms: ‘things’, ‘bodies’, ‘sensory experiences’, ‘material heritage’, ‘object studies’ from humanities research will be explored in the broadest sense (not restricted to medievalism or early modernism). Further information available from:

International Conference on the History of Cartography: Old Maps, New Perspectives

Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday 18thJuly 2019

A line drawn: the tortuous progress of contours onto British Maps Karen Rann

Should you find yourself in Amsterdam, this talk is part of a 5 day conference for which day passes are available:

However, if you are in Japan…

International Cartographic Conference: Surveying and Mapping

Tokyo, Japan, Friday 19thJuly 2019

Reconstructing the lost contours of Charles Hutton Karen Rann, David Fairbairn, Ella Southern

On the grounds of an inability to be in two places at once, David Fairbairn is the presenter here. Further information from:

From the Sandhurst Collection, copyright Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst


Queen’s University Belfast, Tuesday 14th May, 2019

Experimental Lines: an artist’s approach to the appearance of contour lines on maps Karen Rann ‘Lunch and Learn’ Queen’s University Belfast, May 2019


Cambridge University Library, 13 October 2018

The Great Lines Project: Charles Hutton’s Contribution to the Invention of Contours

This talk is for members of the Charles Close Society, but it may be possible for non-members to attend, please contact Bernard Anderson:

The Lines of Attraction, 17-29 April 2018

Schiehallion: contours and communities 

Orchestrated by Karen Rann, John Muir Trust and Artlink Central with Luss Collective, AlecFinlay/Ken Cockburn, Walk Scotland and Sharon Quigley.

A mini-festival of all things Schiehallion based in a yurt at the foot of the mountain. Including walks from the yurt: black grouse watch, dùn coillich: place aware walk and a contour walk. Five days of art workshops, plus meet the artist sessions, tree planting, moth identification and a last night Ceilidh with music, poetry and stories.

Held in association with:

Great Lines Exhibition Thursday 19th to Sunday 29th April 2018 at the Alan Reece Gallery, John Muir Trust, Station Road, Pitlochry, PH16 5AN

And including a finale afternoon of music and talks:

Four Views of Schiehallion’, Saturday 28 April, 1-4pm at River Room, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Port Na Craig, Pitlochry PH16 5DR. Speakers:

Chris Fleet: Perambulations around Schiehallion: maps, landscape and society in late 18th century Perthshire

Karen Rann: The Great Lines: exploring the invention of contours and other depictions of mountain on map

Robin Johnson: Charles Hutton, the Schiehallion experiment and the mean density of the Earth

Liz Auty: A year on fairy the mountain, wildlife, people and trees


Maps and Mapping II – a roundtable Friday 8th December 2017, 2.30-5pm

Cultural Significance of Place: An interdisciplinary research group based at Newcastle University (Room 3.39, Armstrong Building)

Featuring presentations from:

Dr Jo Hicks (NUHRI Research Fellow, Newcastle University)

Isabel Williams (Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University)

Karen Rann (artist)

Dr Russell Foster (Dept. European & International Studies, Kings College London)
Chair: Dr Emma Coffield (Media, Culture, Heritage, Newcastle University)

Further details:

Photo taken by N Duggan

British Cartographic Society – Society of Cartographers Conference

Redworth Hall Hotel, County Durham, DL5 6NL

5th to 7th September 2017

To book a place use the link

Karen  will be showing models and related work throughout the Conference and will be giving a talk about the project on the Thursday morning.

Open Studio Event, VARC Visual Arts in Rural Communities

A Sharing Day with the opportunity to meet Artist in Residence Lucy May Schofield. Also on show, models from the Great Lines Project and copies of the publication (2nd Edition)


The Great Lines Exhibition

Open from Thursday 2nd till Friday 24th June 2016

At the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle, NE1 1SE

Alongside artworks will be material held by the Lit & Phil pertaining to Charles Hutton: inventor of contour lines.

Also at the Lit & Phil, Monday 6th June, 6.00pm. ‘Charles Hutton: scientist, mathematician and the density of the Earth’, talk by Prof. Robin Johnson.

And Saturday 11th June, 10am till noon ‘Fantasy Maps’ FREE creative drop-in for families.


Saturday, April 23rd  2016

In View: Five viewpoints on a landscape

I showed ‘works in progress’,  gave a short talk and facilitated a practical walk-based activity. See VARC website for further details.

Highgreen, Tarset, Northumberland, NE48 1RP

sharing day leaflet