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agency bullet BGN 125th Anniversary

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) celebrated its 125th Anniversary on September 18, 2015, at the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The one-day event included a Symposium with invited speakers and an Open House in the Geography and Map Division that highlighted geographic names-related artifacts. Event Program

BGN History

The BGN was established by President Benjamin Harrison by Executive Order Number 28 on September 4, 1890 with the purpose of resolving geographic name conflicts for the Federal Government. President Theodore Roosevelt issued Executive Order 399 in 1906, which expanded the BGN's authority to address any issues related to geographic names. The BGN was reestablished in its current form in 1947 when President Harry Truman signed Public Law 80-242.


The symposium theme "Traditions and Transitions" focused on the origins of the BGN and the transition of its records from paper to a digital environment. The presentations and transcript are available from the Library of Congress. Click on the section title to see the video and click on Slides to view the slides.

Opening Remarks - U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN)
Douglas Caldwell
Chair, BGN

Welcome - Library of Congress
J. Mark Sweeney
Associate Librarian for Library Services, Library of Congress

Welcome - Department of the Interior
David Applegate
Acting Deputy Director, U.S. Geological Survey

Geographic Names: Roles, Rhetoric, and Resistance
Mark Monmonier
Distinguished Professor of Geography, Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Geographic Names Authorities, Standardization, and International Cooperation
Helen Kerfoot
Former Chair of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names and Emeritus Scientist for Natural Resources Canada

The Origin(s) of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names
Skip Théberge
Central Library, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Evolution of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names
Sandra Shaw
Former Central Intelligence Agency and Department of State
First Woman Chair of the BGN

Introduction of Former BGN Leaders, Current Members, and Staff

The Influence of Technology on the Use of and Access to Geographic Names
Luis Bermudez
Executive Director, Open Geospatial Consortium's Compliance and e-Learning Program

Authoritative Names and Crowd Sourcing: What's the Connection?
David Stage
Former GIS Coordinator for the State of Florida

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names and the National Geographic Society: 125 Years of Disseminating Place Names
Juan José Valdés
The Geographer and Director of Editorial and Cartographic Research, National Geographic Society

Open House

The Open House offered an opportunity to view the Library of Congress' Geography and Map Division's materials arranged in three themes: "Early Geographic Names," "Traditions and Practices of the BGN," and "Power of Names." The exhibit contained artifacts ranging from a map showing geographic names collected by the Greek geographer, Ptolemy; to a map printed by the National Park Service shortly before the symposium, which showed the name Denali for the tallest mountain in North America, a change initiated by the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewel, just weeks earlier.

Information about the materials in the Open House are described in an Exhibit List and Bibliography.

For more information, email the U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Commercial: (571) 557-5959
DSN: 547-5959

Date last modified December 02, 2020

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