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:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Serious History

Elizabeth [I] Hears of the Death of Mary [Queen of Scots] Humor - and especially black humor - often sticks in the imagination in a way that a dry reading of a subject doesn't. The Monarchs of Merry England and More Monarchs of Merry England aren't exactly political cartoons, though the illustrations and text serve much the same purpose. Sometimes the juxtaposition of the comic imagery and the actual sordid details of the event make the reality all the more vividly memorable.

Does the execution of Mary Queen of Scots really seem like something to dance about? But you know it solved a lot of problems for Elizabeth I.

His [William the Conqueror] Soldiers Restrained from Taking Advantage of Victory GainedWas William the Conqueror restrained in his dealings with the local populace during his advance into England? Not so much really.

Another interesting thing about these images is the depth of knowledge the author assumes the reader has. Who was Isabella and why was it important that she not have any intended?

Isabella [of France], untrammelled by any Intended
For those of you hanging on the edge of your seats.....and after some quick research.... Isabella was the daughter of Charles VI of France. By marrying her, Richard II was attempting to consolidate England's claim to the throne of France. Despite what the imagery suggests, she was seven at the time and Richard died a few years later.

Ask for Illus R59mon and Illus R59mor.