Bob’s Blog – the Story of COGS – February 7/13 update

 1)   Why Lawrencetown ? Why the Survey school ?

Downtown Lawrencetown, Nova ScotiaHeather and I have been inspired by the hard work of JB Hall and Major Church. Together, these visionaries over a hundred years developed and implemented the concept of a technical training institution in Annapolis County.

Lawrencetown was selected because it was the birthplace of JB Hall. Hall recognized the need for this type of education in rural Canada based on his experience of technical education in Germany. He set aside funds for the establishment and operation of this type of facility.

Major Church, who retired to Lawrencetown as a gentleman farmer, after a career in the military and as a civil engineer, recognized the need to train surveyors after the Second World War.

He leveraged the JB Hall funds to set up the ‘Survey School’. These actions led to the Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute in its present location in 1975.

Subsequently renamed the College of Geographic Sciences in 1986.

2)   Article submitted to GoGeomatics

logo GoGeomaticsJon Murphy of GoGeomatics was seeking an opinion piece on Geomatics leadership in Canada for his online publication. So I contributed an article that I wrote in January titled ‘Thinking about GIS or whatever happened to the Geography teacher’.

The title of the article leans on the book of the same title written by Roger Tomlinson, as well as the forthcoming book by Donald Savoie ‘ Whatever happened to the Music teacher’.

The article received several comments and feedback and I recommend you read the comments from The Hill Times, if you want to fully appreciate the Savoie reference in the article.

3)   Scrapbooks and photographs in the Library

As a result of a conversation with Trish Leblanc, COGS Librarian, we have discovered scrapbooks and photographs compiled by Donna Eisner (previous Librarian before Terri Milton). Theses include many newspaper clippings from  1979  to 1999.  We are in the process of determining the best mechanism to use for sharing this rich resource with everybody.

GIS Summer Institute 1987 lobster boil4)   Slides of GIS Summer Institute 1987

Simeon Roberts provided me with slides from the 1987 GIS Summer Institute, that I have included on the web site. The photos depict a canoe trip down the Annapolis River, as well as the traditional lobster boil on the Bay of Fundy.

In the photos I can identify Roger Tomlinson, Michael Goodchild, Peter Keller, Tat Ma. If we compare the photos to the GIS87 class list, there will be more. I also have photographs contributed by David Woolnough that I must revisit. They include the visit by Paul Martin to COGS.

5)   Georgetown Letters

The Annapolis Valley Spectator is seeking letters from the public leading to the Georgetown conference, ‘Rural redefined’. ( If you want to submit a letter, contact Bob is formulating his thoughts on the role that COGS can play in the creative rural economy.

6)   Kings County Cultural map

Genevieve Allen and Ed Symonds (COGS) unveiled an online cultural map for Kings County last night (Feb 6) ( It is based on open source GIS software. The strength of the web –based product is its ability to tell stories about the people in the county. Each story is geo-referenced.  The methodology follows the work of Greg Baeker, cultural consultant with MBD. (

Well until next month,





Simeon Roberts provided us with slides from the 1987 GIS Summer Institute, that we have scanned and included on the web site. The photos depict a canoe trip down the Annapolis River, as well as the traditional lobster boil on the Bay of Fundy.

In the photos I can identify Roger Tomlinson, Michael Goodchild, Peter Keller, Tat Ma. If we compare the photos to the GIS87 class list, there should be more.

If you can identify anybody in the photos then please us know.

The Road to Redlands

Esri LogoI recently received an email from Cathy Mueller of Esri confirming that the first COGS graduate that took the road to Redlands was indeed Julie Hutching in 1986. Other early COGS graduates that followed were Mark Harris and Jamil Alvi. Mark is still working with ESRI, however Julie and Jamil both left Esri in 2011. Jamil with his wife, Jonelle (COGS 1995) moved to Portland, Oregon.

While Esri does not keep records by institution, Cathy does reckons that they currently have sixty COGS graduates working there with roughly another sixty that have come and gone over the years. So over a thirty year span, an average of four per year. Not so shabby.  Esri and Esri Canada continue to come to COGS every Spring interviewing and recruiting graduates.

logo CCA

GIS Summer Institute 1985 and 1987

Mike Goodchild has confirmed that two Canadian Cartographic Association (CCA) sponsored workshops were held at COGS during the Summer of 1985 and 1987. This involved Roger Tomlinson and many university faculty from across Canada. He not only gave me the dates, he also remembered the social events – John Wightman’s lobster boil on the Bay of Fundy, the boat trip down the Annapolis River, picnic at my house in Clarence. Plus a participant hitting a deer coming back over North Mountain.

GIS/RS Newsletter 1993

1993 GIS-RS Alumni Newsletter v2Sally O’Grady discovered the first (and only) COGS Alumni Newsletter created in 1993. She has provided us with a copy of it witch we have added to the web site. It contains many various contributions from different staff members. It is amazing that twenty years have gone by.

A Design for GIS training 1985

Over Christmas, with help from my son, I have tracked down a paper written by myself and John Wightman, in The Operational Geographer. It will be posted to the web site soon.

Alumni Network

There have been several alumni class lists generated by David Raymond, David MacLean and my self which we will include on the site. I have also been working with Kathleen Stewart to see if we can build a web application that will allow searching and maintenance of these lists. I have also been working with Jon Murphy who runs GoGeomatics out of Ottawa to help reach past COGS Alumni.

My interest is to support a vibrant alumni network. Anyone with interests and skills in this area, please contact me. This is an important component of the project.


Before Christmas, Heather and I had interviews with David Woolnough and David Colville to help try and get a better handle on the period between 1988 -1999 at COGS, when I was away from the valley.


writingWhile I have been distracted by family vacation, and also trying to get the web site working well, this Spring I hope to start the substantive writing, beginning with the ‘survey school’ days.

PLEASE FORWARD any photographs, articles, items of interest or comments to me. We will acknowledge all contributions.


The new Principal of  the Annapolis Valley campus is Isabel Madeira-Voss. She replaced Jim Stanley last Summer.

The New Chair of Geomatics at COGS is Dennis Kingston, he replaces Bruce Hicks this month (January 2013).

Enough for my first blog update.