Sweet Home: Alabama’s History in Maps

Sweet Home: Alabama’s History in Maps “is an exhibit presented by the Birmingham Public Library in celebration of Alabama’s bicentennial. The Library’s Southern History Department has carefully selected over 50 maps from our world class collection to tell the story of Alabama. The maps in this exhibit represent 450 years of exploration, expansion, and development.” It opens Wednesday and runs through the end of April; there’s also an online versionAlabama Newscenter. [Tony Campbell]

Where Disaster Strikes

Where Disaster Strikes: Modern Space and the Visualization of Destruction, an exhibition of disaster maps, is taking place now until 19 April at Harvard’s Pusey Library.

Floods, fires, earthquakes, volcanoes, bombings, droughts, and even alien invasions: disaster can take many forms. And, although disasters are always felt dramatically, a disaster’s form and location impacts who records its effects and what forms those records take. “Where Disaster Strikes” investigates the intertwined categories of modern space and disaster through the Harvard Map Collection’s maps of large destructive events from the London Fire to the present.

Open to the public. The exhibition also has a substantial online presence.

Engraved in Copper

Engraved in Copper: The Art of Mapping Minnesota opened this week at the University of Minnesota’s Elmer L. Andersen Library. “This exhibit highlights unique engraved copper plates used to print topographic maps of Minnesota in the early 1900s, surveying and mapmaking techniques, and government documents related to the process. The plates are part of the evolution of government mapping and the history of the United States Geological Survey, from early mapping efforts to Geographic Information Systems.” Runs until 22 May.

New Edition of London: A Life in Maps

This post on Londonist obliquely lets us know that there’s a new edition of Peter Whitfield’s London: A Life in Maps, out this month from the British Library (it comes out in June in the U.S.). “[R]edesigned and updated for a new audience,” the book originally came out as a companion to a British Library exhibition of the same name that ran ten years ago.

Related: Map Books of 2017.

The Origins of the Selden Map

The Selden Map is a map of Chinese origin bequeathed by John Selden to the Bodleian Library in 1659. The precise origins of the map have hitherto been unknown, but scientists at Nottingham Trent University are trying to do something about that. Using a series of non-invasive techniques to examine the map’s material composition, they conclude that the map was created in stages, and probably comes from Aceh, Sumatra. Their findings were published last year in Heritage Science. [Caitlin Dempsey/WMS]

Previously: The Selden Map.

Tactile Maps, Modern and Historical

Two items on maps for the blind and visually impaired—a subject I find terribly interesting:

Greg Miller of National Geographic’s All Over the Map reports on a new tactile atlas of Switzerland, which “is printed with special ink that expands when heated to create tiny bumps and ridges on the page.” I can’t find a direct link to said atlas, but Greg interviews Esri cartographer Anna Vetter, who led the project.

Tactile maps have been around for a long time: Atlas Obscura looks at tactile maps—and even a tactile globe!—dating back to the early 1800s. Many of these maps are in the archives of the Perkins School for the Blind. The Perkins School has a Flickr album of these maps.

Map Literacy in the Middle Ages

When we talk about map literacy, we mean the ability to read a map. We can blithely talk about how map reading has changed over the centuries while failing to interrogate whether what we mean by map reading has changed as well. It’s presentism to assume that people in the past did things the same way as they do today. In a useful essay called “Maps, Travel and Exploration in the Middle Ages: Some Reflection About Anachronism,” French academic Patrick Gautier Dalché explores how medieval audiences interpreted mappae mundi and marine charts. Even a mappa mundi, he argues, has a practical function. Spoiler: it’s not how you or I would use them.

It also occurs to me that Dalché’s paper is a must-read for writers of fantasy novels (and fantasy map makers), who might also fall into the trap of assuming that their characters would use their maps the same way as a modern map reader would.

Maclean’s Profiles Nova Scotia’s COGS

Nova Scotia Community College’s Centre of Geographic Sciences, a tiny, 200-student campus in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, gets two writeups in Canada’s national newsmagazine, Maclean’s, as part of its annual campus guide: its unique marine geomatics program is profiled here, and the W. K. Morrison Special Collection, which I told you about last June, is profiled here.

Utah Drawn

James H. Young, “Map of the United States of America,” in Samuel Augustus Mitchell, A New Universal Atlas (Philadelphia, 1850). Note the presence of Deseret on the map.

Another map exhibition I neglected to mention yesterdayUtah Drawn: An Exhibition of Rare Maps runs from 27 January to late summer 2017 at the Utah Capitol Building in Salt Lake City; it features “forty rare historical maps depicting the region that became the state of Utah from its earliest imaginings by European cartographers to Utah’s modern state’s boundaries.” [Tony Campbell]

Two Upcoming Exhibitions

California as an Island and Worlds That Never Were, an exhibition of maps from the Roy V. Boswell Collection for the History of Cartography at California State University at Fullerton. Runs from 22 January to 29 March at CSU Fullerton’s Pollak Library. News release. [WMS]

Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State features maps spanning more than 400 years of Texas history, mostly from the Texas General Land Office, as well as two museums and private collectors. Runs from 27 January to 8 October at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. News release. [WMS]

Seymour Schwartz’s Hidden Passion

Seymour Schwartz is a familiar figure in the map world. A professor of surgery by day, he’s built a reputation as a map collector (and donor), historian and author (his books include The Mismapping of America and Putting “America” on the Map). On Thursday he’ll be appearing at the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, as one of the speakers in their Hidden Passions series. University of Rochester news release. [WMS]

Previously: Schwartz Collection Exhibition Opens MondaySchwartz Donates Maps to University of Rochester.

Book Roundup for January 2017

early-dutch-maritime-cartographyGünter Schilder’s Early Dutch Maritime Cartography: The North Holland School of Cartography (c. 1580-c. 1620) comes out this month from Brill; its book launch takes place in Amsterdam on 27 January. [Tony Campbell]

Also scheduled for publication later this month: Mapping the Holy Land: The Origins of Cartography in Palestine by Bruno Schelhaas, Jutta Faehndrich and Halim Goren (I. B. Tauris).

Geographical magazine has reviews of two books I’ve mentioned here. Paul Presley reviews Treasures of the Map Room, which I reviewed here last month; and Laura Cole reviews Cheshire and Uberti’s Where the Animals Go, which I told you about last November.

The Map Books of 2017 page is now live; I’ll be adding books scheduled to be published during the year as I find out about them.