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What WMS Is All About

Founded in 1979, the Washington Map Society (WMS) is an international organization of around 400 members, who are dedicated to promoting the understanding and enjoyment of maps of all kinds. Maps represent an amazingly diverse universe, and whether they are old or new, functional or decorative, manuscript, printed, engraved in stone or digital, they have proven to be amazingly effective in an impressively wide range of human activity. And the members of the Society are almost as diverse as the maps themselves. Our members hail from 19 nations around the globe and represent a broad range of professions and activities – historians, collectors, map sellers, researchers, archivists, students, computer scientists, surveyors, and astronomers to name a few.

The WMS is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization run by member volunteers and every dollar raised through member dues and donations is used to promote our mission.

Our Mission

The Washington Map Society supports and promotes map collecting, cartography and the study of cartographic history.

Underlying our mission is our conviction that maps are among the most indispensable works in human history. Since the earliest days of cartography, people have sought methods to make accurate maps, for transportation, commercial, political and scientific purposes, dealing with the earth’s geography, topography and geology. Map making was and is an intellectual, physical and technical challenge. Maps represent not only places but also the knowledge, craft, devotion and care of their makers, and are some of the world’s most notable works of art.

The WMS advances its mission by convening periodic speaker events, organizing field trips, publishing a cartographic journal (The Portolan) three times yearly, by annually sponsoring the Ristow Prize competition recognizing research achievement in cartographic history, and providing cartographic materials to members and visitors on this website.


Membership in the WMS is open to individuals and organizations (such as libraries and universities who want to subscribe to The Portolan) and there is no prerequisite for joining other than an interest in maps. Nearly all membership benefits are fully accessible to our members around the world through our website, including speaker events and our acclaimed journal.

Membership for Individuals

Membership for Institutions

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