May 13th, 2015
Cover of Atlante geografico metodico (Novara: Istituto geografico de Agostini, 1927). Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In honor of this week’s National Geographic Bee, we invite you to visit the current exhibit in Special Collections — “Mapmaking: Sources from the Geography Library, Map Library, and Special Collections.”  The exhibit honors the path-breaking accomplishments of the History of Cartography Project, which has just published volume six, Cartography in the Twentieth Century.

Tom Tews of the Geography Library and Jaime Stoltenberg of the Robinson Map Library on campus worked with us to select items for the exhibit, which also includes materials from the History of Cartography Project collections. On display are maps, books, aerial photographs, and related items from the 16th century to the 21st, with most from the 20th century, in line with the focus of the publication it honors.

Many items on display carry a distinctly political message. For example, a “dream map” of intended German conquest in World War I (from the Andrew Laurie Stangel Collection in Special Collections) sits alongside a Map of the Western Theatre of War (1918) from the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. A War Atlas for Americans (1944) prepared with the assistance of the Office of War Information (from the Geography Library) illustrates the realities of World War II as delivered to bookshelves in American homes.  A large four-panel map (from the Map Library) dates from the late 1940s in the Soviet Union and celebrates (thirty years later) the achievements of the Red Army during the Russian civil war, complete with Stalin’s words of praise. From the collections of the History of Cartography Project, a necklace charm in the shape of a map of Kurdistan creates and represents Kurdistan as a contiguous and united nation-state, though it is currently divided between the internationally recognized states of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.

The exhibit also honors the important contributions of Arthur H. Robinson, founder of the Robinson Map Library, University of Wisconsin  Cartographic Laboratory, and Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office, and David Woodward, who, with J. B. Harley, founded the History of Cartography Project. Woodward was also a valued friend of the Department of Special Collections and accomplished book artist.

Hours for the exhibit (and for our reading room) are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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