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Geographic Names Course

Produced by Roger Payne, Cartography Commission


The course has been conducted 20 times, and is scheduled to be presented in Madrid, Spain in August 2009 (the course was postponed and held in October 2009).  This is unprecedented in that the course is designed for member States of the Pan American Institute of Geography & History.  The Working Group and teaching team are honored that the course is considered to be of such merit that an invitation and request has been extended from outside PAIGH.

The course is very successful, attracting students from a wide background, and in need of toponymic training for on-the-job application.  Over the years, over 600 students have been trained, and very positive results can be seen throughout the Pan American member States regarding programs for standardization, and implementation of procedures to achieve standardization.  The course supports all of the identified strategic goals of the Commission.  Specifically, a course goal is to offer the course in each of the member States, thereby fostering cooperation amongst the various Institutes of Geography as well as other agencies of the various national governments.  Strategic Goal 1 is further supported because the course has become a model upon which most of the United Nations training courses in toponomy are based.  Strategic Goals 2 and 3 have been basic tenets of the course since its inception.  The value is demonstrated for establishing programs of names standardization, which is essential for supporting various governmental programs, especially national mapping programs, and provides critical support for National Spatial Data Infrastructures (NSDI) as resolved by the United Nations.  Additionally, valuable practical information is gained for application to rapidly growing programs of digital mapping.  Further, the workshop that is an integral part of the course provides basic (and sometimes advanced) training in establishing and implementing automated guidelines and procedures.  Since the venue moves from member State to member State, standard procedures for the exchange of toponymic data essential in the geospatial environment are developed, adopted, and enhanced through mutual discussion and exchange amongst the member States.  Strategic Goal 4 is promoted, and in fact is inevitable, as a result of the implementation of electronic databases encouraged and fostered by the course.  A standard geographic names database that serves as the one official source for geographic names data used throughout the geospatial applications of the national government is promoted.  The accomplishment of Strategic Goals 1 through 4 fosters the accomplishment of Strategic Goal 5.  Further evidence of cultural exchange is the short, but intense field exercise especially if there is participation by foreign students.  In fact, by changing the venue each year, the course promotes cooperation, standardization, and exchange of data and ideas.  Participation by foreign students from member States foments cultural exchange as well as technical exchange.  The course has evolved to epitomize the Strategic Goals of the Commission.

Also, students from the course have in the past been involved with the PC-IDEA program being developed as a result of resolutions from the United Nations Cartographic Conferences of the Americas as are the instructors of the course.  Although, PC-IDEA geographic names activities are temporarily on hold, the cooperation and exchange fosters an efficient means of achieving the immediate goals of PC-IDEA and PAIGH, which are the identification of digital, geographic names data for inclusion in a digital gazetteer of Latin America leading to the establishment and maintenance of a central and official, automated geographic names database for the Latin American community ultimately to be used as an authoritative data layer for the various national and regional spatial data infrastructures.  Many national governments have met or are meeting these requirements as a direct result of training from the geographic names course.

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