WALTERS ART MUSEUM HOSTS MAPS: FINDING OUR PLACE IN THE WORLD
Exhibit Features Landscapes of Time and Space, Science and Imagination
March 16, 2008–June 8, 2008
From clay tablets to sea charts, from historic expeditions to sketches of worlds real and imagined—maps tell us much more than how to get from where we are to where we want to be. They help us visualize the places we inhabit, see and study the unknown, understand our place in the world as it is and shape it for the future. This rare exhibition of the world’s greatest maps features over 100 exquisite original maps, globes and artifacts. Maps: Finding Our Place in the World is a once-in-a-lifetime journey through landscapes of time and space, science and imagination.
The exhibition will include maps created by American historical figures like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, by scientists like Leonardo da Vinci and Ptolemy, by writers like J.R.R. Tolkien and William Faulkner, and by explorers like Charles Lindbergh and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. There will be the map that drew the first boundaries around a new American nation and the oldest road map of Europe. This will be the most ambitious North American exhibition devoted to maps since an exceptional show mounted in Baltimore over 50 years ago.
This exhibition is part of Baltimore’s Festival of Maps, a citywide celebration organized by the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance to encourage Baltimore residents and visitors to explore museums, theaters, galleries and educational institutions. From March 16 through June 30, 2008, more than 25 local arts and culture organizations will offer map-related exhibitions, performances, workshops, walking and driving tours, seminars and lectures, and family programming. To learn more, visit www.baltimorefestivalofmaps.com.What makes maps so hypnotic? Is it the world of possibilities they offer as they take us on vicarious journeys? Perhaps their connection to a moment in history or their sometimes dazzling beauty?
Whatever your own connection to maps, you will discover unexpected new dimensions of these remarkable objects in Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, on view at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Md., March 16–June 8, 2008. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see over 100 of the world’s greatest maps: maps from ancient Rome and Babylonia; ground-breaking maps by Leonardo da Vinci and Mercator; maps loaned from great libraries of the world including that of Queen Elizabeth II housed in Windsor Castle and the Library of Congress. You will see not only the map that drew the first boundaries around a new American nation and the oldest road map of Europe but also maps that scarcely look like maps at all—sculptural forms carved in wood and landscapes fired on ceramic vessels. You will see maps made by dreamers like J.R.R. Tolkien and by visionaries like the Internet pioneers. You will learn how early maps were made and discover how map-making has changed over centuries.
“This will be the most ambitious North American tour devoted to maps since an extraordinary show mounted in Baltimore over 50 years ago,” said Walters Director Gary Vikan. “We are so pleased to have maps drawn from cultures and collections from around the globe.”
This exhibition is organized by the Field Museum and The Newberry Library. Presented by Navteq. Maps: Finding Our Place in the World is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The exhibition at the Walters Art Museum is made possible by the extraordinary generosity of an anonymous donor. Additional support is provided by Signal Hill, a Contributing Sponsor, and Mr. and Mrs. John R. Rockwell.
Unfolding the Meanings of Maps
Most people think of maps as useful tools to get us somewhere, but “they also tell us who we are. They reveal the priorities and technologies of our own civilizations and those of the past,” said William Noel, curator of manuscripts and rare books and curator of the Maps exhibition at the Walters. “They also tell us what is not considered important to the makers and users of maps.” For example, a map of colonial America completely ignores large American Indian nations.
In maps that represent religious or traditional views of the world, a sacred place—Jerusalem for the medieval Christian world, the mountains of central Asia for Hindus and Buddhists—is often at the center, and spiritual or supernatural realms can appear beside geographic locations. Navigational maps, by contrast, can focus on patterns of wind and waves, on coastlines or on measurements of latitude, longitude and angles—all aimed at getting sailors where they need to go. And the Congo artist who created the exhibition’s lukasa memory board—a conceptual map of local chiefdoms, history and politics—was concerned as much with secret knowledge of Luba genealogy as with visible places.
You Call That a Map?
Some of the objects in the exhibition scarcely look like maps at all like the lukasa, carved with ideogram, a clay fox astride a pot, and an Inuit shoreline carving.
“We deliberately set out to stretch visitors’ ideas of what a map can be,” explained Robert W. Karrow, Jr., curator of special collections and curator of maps at the Newberry. “We tend to think of geographic accuracy as the main goal of maps, but it’s important to recognize that there’s more than one way to view that.” An Inuit paddling his kayak along a shoreline in the dark, for example, has more use for a carved object with contours he can feel than for one with carefully drawn lines of latitude and longitude or boundaries drawn precisely to scale.
The idea driving the exhibition, said Karrow, is to look at maps on their own terms. Maps are as old as language, he points out, and old maps are not primitive versions of our own but languages suited to their time and place. “We don’t read Chaucer and say he couldn’t write well,” Karrow said. “We read him and get a picture of his times, and a new perspective on ourselves.” Similarly, maps are windows into lives, times and cultures. And like all products of human culture, they show us people addressing needs that are as old as humankind.
Expanding Our Knowledge
One basic need addressed by maps is to convey information and expertise. The exhibition offers many examples of map-makers developing ways to convey knowledge, especially new knowledge, about the world we inhabit: visible things, like the newly discovered continents of the Americas or the great city of Tenochtitlan, and things not seen, like the roundness of the earth, the realms of the spirit and the geography of fictional lands.
Scientists, in particular, often have the imagination as well as the knowledge to map things unseen. Jim Akerman, director of the Newberry Library’s Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for History of Cartography, pointed out that Leonardo da Vinci was a cartographer as well as an artist, and his map of central Italy—the first to use color to indicate changes in elevation, today called a hypsometric map—was a breakthrough. “There was no precedent for it,” Akerman said, “and there would be nothing like it for another three hundred years.”
Scientific maps can even create knowledge and make important discoveries themselves. For example, John Snow’s famous map of a cholera outbreak in the 1850s allowed him to pinpoint the source of the disease: a single contaminated well. A century later Marie Tharp’s charts of the Atlantic sea floor provided evidence for plate tectonics, the movement of the earth’s crust. But perhaps the most famous was a geological map of England created 200 years ago by William Smith. In revealing the relative ages of layers of rocks, it laid the foundation for Darwin’s work a few decades later and came to be called “the map that changed the world.”
The Walters will continue its successful integration of information technologies into its exhibitions during Maps. To help visitors make the leap to mapping in the 21st century, the museum will install a new onsite interactive technology lab titled Find It, Map It, Make It, where visitors of all ages can explore contemporary maps and mapping in a “hi-tech” way. Computers and web connections will offer a variety of interactive mapping activities, including using Google Earth to explore the connection between art at the Walters and geography. Wireless internet service will also allow visitors to play along on their own laptops.
The Walters will present two smaller in-house exhibitions as companion shows to Maps. On view Feb. 2–July 27, 2008, Mapping the Cosmos: Images from the Hubble Space Telescope, will present images of the universe taken by the Hubble telescope. Hubble images have been instrumental in discovering new facts about the cosmos and in tracking its evolutionary history over billions of years. These panoramas of time and space are “maps” of scientific data, but they are also aesthetic objects of striking power and beauty. Organized in collaboration with the Space Telescope Science Institute, this exhibition is the first joint venture with The Johns Hopkins University’s Program in Museums and Society. Contributing support has been provided by Constellation Energy.
Art on Purpose—a community arts-based organization that uses art to bring people together around issues and ideas—will conduct a Maps on Purpose project in partnership with the Walters Art Museum. Working with numerous Baltimore communities, organizations, schools and artists, Art on Purpose will use a selection of maps from the Walters’ Maps exhibition to inspire mapping projects in Baltimore city neighborhoods. These projects will address specific needs and wants of the neighborhoods, reflecting their issues and identities. From March 1–June 8, 2008, the exhibition changes eight times, featuring a new selection of neighborhood maps in each rotation.
Baltimore Festival of Maps
The Baltimore Festival of Maps is a citywide celebration organized by the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance to encourage Baltimore residents and visitors to explore museums, theaters, galleries and educational institutions. From March 16 through June 30, 2008, more than 25 local arts and culture organizations will offer map-related exhibitions, performances, workshops, walking and driving tours, seminars and lectures, and family programming. To learn more about festival events at Baltimore’s cultural, civic and scientific institutions, visit www.baltimorefestivalofmaps.com.
Maps is a special ticketed exhibition. General admission to the Walters’ permanent collection is free. Purchase tickets at www.ticketmaster.com, 800-551-SEAT or by calling 410-547-9000, ext. 265.
Special Exhibition Admission (Prices subject to change)
College students/young adults (18-25): $6
Age 17 & under/Walters Members: FREE
Museum hours are Wednesday–Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, Memorial Day and Independence Day. The Walters will be open on the President’s Day.
The Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum is located in Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre streets and is one of only a few museums worldwide to present a comprehensive history of art from the third millennium B.C. to the early 20th century. Among its thousands of treasures, the Walters holds the finest collection of ivories, jewelry, enamels and bronzes in America and a spectacular reserve of illuminated manuscripts and rare books. The Walters’ Egyptian, Greek and Roman, Byzantine, Ethiopian and western medieval art collections are among the best in the nation, as are the museum’s holdings of Renaissance and Asian art. Every major trend in French painting during the 19th century is represented by one or more works in the Walters’ collection.
Peabody Court is the official hotel of the Walters Art Museum. This historic property is just around the corner from the museum and features George’s, a full-service restaurant. For hotel reservations, call 1-800-292-5500 and ask for the special Walters discounted rate.