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A Universe of Maps - Opening the David Rumsey Map Center

Digital Companion to the Exhibit at the Green Library, Stanford University, Peterson Gallery, Munger Rotunda and the David Rumsey Map Center: April 19, 2016 - August 28, 2016

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Revolution annuelle de la terre autour du soleil, in Atlas classique et universel de geographie ancienne et moderne... J. Andriveau-­Goujon; H. Nicollet; E. Soulier. Paris: 1850
This chart illustrates the movement of the earth around the sun during each month of the year. Two additional diagrams appear on either side of the title: the one on the left explains Kepler's theory of elliptical orbits; the one on the right shows the movement of the sun during the day. These phenomena are further explained in the French text.

Maps engage our senses and pique our curiosity — in what was and in what might be. The David Rumsey Map Collection, one of the largest private collections in the United States and a gift to Stanford Libraries, contains spectacular pieces that will undoubtedly inspire and inform scholarship. Each case in the exhibit was designed to immerse visitors in a visual and textual archive of historical information and imaginative visualizations of space and time.

Visitors can traverse unusual representations of the Roman road network in the Peutinger Tables of 1619, witness the beginnings of data visualization in Harry Beck’s pioneering 1933 map of the London Underground Railways, marvel at a 1710 Buddhist Map of the World, and view a pre-Google-map, pre-AAA-TripTik 1907 illustrated road guide. Examples of 20th century graphic design, novelty maps and teaching tools, and a series of contemporary solar-powered MOVA globes created from modern satellite imagery will captivate creative and inquisitive minds.

Well-known maps and atlases, such as the first edition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s Account of the Expedition . . . , with its foldout map delineating their route through the West (1814) and Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarum (1570) anchor the exhibition in the history of cartography. But the bulk of the display falls outside the neatline of tradition. A 19th-century Jain cosmological diagram hand-painted on cloth shares gallery space with a tactile atlas for use by the blind, and an 1836 timeline depicting the flow of historical events from 4004 BC to the 1830s as rivers of time on a single sheet.

While this exhibition honors the physical items, digital cartography is ever evolving. Geospatial data and GIS are transforming scholarship and informing new research methodologies, which makes the opening of the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford Libraries especially timely. It will serve as a nerve center, bringing together minds from the humanities, the sciences, the arts and the professional schools to interact and incorporate the content, data and illustrations of cartographic materials into their research and teaching.