Sketching in Water by Chris Higgins
Sketching in Water by Chris Higgins

Cartography Salon Submissions

NSS Cartography Salon

The Cartography Salon will be conducted in person so there will not be an option to upload maps for judging. Deadline for submitting maps to the Cartographic Salon is Monday by 2:00pm at the NSS Convention. All entries should be given to the Cartography Salon Chair by the deadline. All Judging will be on-site at the NSS Convention. For any questions, please contact the Cartographic Salon Chair.

The Cartographic Salon will also feature a "Cavers Choice" award. Convention participants will be able to vote for their favorite map entry.

The NSS Cartographic Salon is held annually at the National Speleological Society Convention and has four purposes:

  • Foster interest in cave cartography as a technical skill and art form.
  • Encourage the exchange of techniques and styles.
  • Showcase recent exploration and mapping projects worldwide.
  • Recognize cartographic excellence.

Highlights include:

  • Display of all maps entered in the Cartography Salon.
  • Cartography Salon awards presentation on Thursday during the Salon Awards Program.
  • Map salon critique at the maps display area on Friday between 10am - 12noon. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Salon Resources:   Entry Form pdf    Judging Criteria    Contact.

The Cartographic Salon is operated by the Survey and Cartography Section of the NSS. Visit their home at SACS

Entrant’s Guide to the NSS Cartographic Salon



All cave cartographers are welcome to enter maps. You do not need to be a US resident or NSS member. A map may be entered only by its cartographer, unless written permission from the cartographer is provided. The salon considers the cartographer to be the person or persons who drew the final map and who created the look and arrangement of the final map.

Type of Maps

Maps of caves or karst related features may be entered. There are no restrictions of cave size or location.

Map Formats

The salon accepts a variety of formats and methods of presentation. Innovations are encouraged (including web-based maps). Cartographers wishing to submit electronic displays of their maps must provide their own media for displaying the maps.

Number of Maps

Cartographers may enter as many as THREE maps.


There are no fees for the Cartographic Salon.


Map Formats:

Typical Map entries are on paper medium though other methods can also be used as long as the cartographer provides the media (computer/laptop, monitors, etc) in which the map should be viewed.

  • Web Maps

Put a URL for your map on the salon entry form, and we will do the rest. Innovation in this media is welcome and encouraged. Though specific judging criteria for web based maps have not yet been developed for this salon, web-maps should include features that use the web format to advantage, such as view control or interactive controls.

Entry Form

The entry form can be found on this website. Detailed instructions are presented below.

  • Name of the Cartographer(s)

Enter the full name of the cartographer for all the maps entered. At a minimum, include a complete first and last name. Where all the maps are created by more than one cartographer, list the names at the top of the form. The order of names shown on the entry form will be used in any award presentations. Where not all the maps entered have the same set of cartographers, either submit separate entry forms or list all the cartographers alongside the entry for each map.

  • Address

Provide contact information for one of the cartographers. The number for a cell phone carried at convention may be handy.

  • Categories

Enter the Cartographic Salon category that applies to the cartographers entering the maps (see Judging and Awards). If there is more than one cartographer, pick the most experienced category that applies to any of the cartographers.

  • Map Names, Locations, and Special Formats

For each map, enter the name of the cave and its location, including county, state, and country (or non-US equivalents). If the map shows a section, quadrant, or other subdivision of a cave, include both the name of the section and the name of the cave. For system or thematic maps, enter the map title.

  • Rights

Your PDF maps will be sent to the judges only and will not be made available for download. As in other years, images of winning maps will be included in the Salon Awards presentation only if you allow it in your submission form.

Please read the use rights section of the entry form. If you want to have your winning map shown during the Salon Awards Presentations and shown in the record of winners on the NSS website, then mark the box and put your dated signature at the bottom.  This is optional.




Maps are entered in one of three categories, based on the experience level of the map’s cartographers.

  • Apprentice

The apprentice category is for cartographers who have never been awarded a ribbon at a previous NSS Cartographic Salon.

  • Experienced

The experienced category is for cartographers who have won one or more ribbons at a previous NSS Cartographic Salon, but not a Medal.

  • Master

The master category is for cartographers who have been awarded the Medal at a previous NSS Cartographic Salon.


  • The judges are cave cartographers with salon experience who volunteer to critique maps and assign awards. Typically each category has three judges.
  • Judges who have maps entered in the salon will not judge that category and will not participate in awarding a salon Medal.
  • Judges have the discretion to add or eliminate categories based the set of entries submitted to the salon.

Awards by Salon Judges

  • Honorable Mention (Green Ribbon)

Given to maps that demonstrate cartographic technique at a level suited to the category.

  • Merit Award (Blue Ribbon)

Given to maps that demonstrate consistent cartographic technique at the top level of the category.

  • Medal

Given to outstanding maps that demonstrate a consistent excellence of cartographic technique.

Caver’s Choice Award - This will be awarded to the map with the most caver votes.


Awards are presented by the Cartographic Salon Chair at the Salon Awards Show. This is traditionally held on Thursday evening of convention and includes all the great NSS Salons.


The most important part of the Cartographic Salon is the critique of the maps. This often is the only opportunity a mapper has to hear feedback from a group of fellow cave cartographers who each have taken time to study the map and to construct careful advice.

  • The map critique is open to anyone interested in seeing how the map judging process works and hearing discussion, comments and suggestions from the judges. Only maps entered for judging are reviewed and critiqued. As judges study each map, they fill out a judging sheet. They write both positive and negative comments, note features and qualities, and rate various aspects of the map, all based on our standard judging criteria (see Judging and Awards). The judging sheets are used when awards are decided, and they will be emailed to the cartographers after the salon.
  • All maps will be returned to the cartographers unless they want to contribute them to the NSS.
Monday by 2pm Deadline for receiving entries.
Monday through Wed Map judging time frame.
Thursday Awards will be presented at the Salon Awards Show at both short and long sessions
Friday Map critiques will be available. Everyone is welcome to attend.

For more information, contact one or both of the Cartographic Salon Chairs . . .

Pat Kambesis

Jason Richards