Friday, March 2, 2018

Map Stories

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words - this is certainly true if that picture is a map. When we think of what purpose maps serve, we often jump immediately to their use as tools for navigation, or finding things. We focus less on the stories a map can tell us. But whether we unfold a tourist's guide to find our way around a new city, or crack open an atlas while curled up in our own home, maps transport us to new, sometimes far off places, and help us navigate unfamiliar territories with confidence and excitement. And the details on a map - where boundaries are drawn and how places are named - speak volumes about the perspective and worldview of the cartographers and intended audience. Some maps make assumptions about landmasses or geographical layouts that are later proved false, but which provide a window into the way the world looked to those who, at the time, viewed the map as authoritative.

For the next several weeks in Rauner, we have an exhibit that explores this hidden potential of maps. Our cases examine maps as telling stories about perspective, speculation, and journeys. Juxtaposing, for example, relief maps of the White Mountains with Christopher Robin's map of the Hundred Acre Woods, Thorin's map from The Hobbit with an English seafaring chart, and Dante's circles of hell with maps of polar expeditions, each case considers one of the three themes across maps in different styles and across time.

All of our maps have exciting, nostalgic, intriguing, and wondrous stories to tell. To come and see some of them, stop by Rauner and head up to the Mezzanine level to find Map Stories: A World on a Page, open through April 13. If you can't make it in person to see the exhibit, you can read more about it online: https://www.dartmouth.edu/~library/rauner/exhibits/map-stories.html.

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