24 September 2007

Chicago's Map Festival

The Chicago Tribune carried a story about that city's Festival of Maps, to begin November 2, at 30 venues with 37 participating institutions featuring thousands of maps over the coming months.

The unusual collaboration of so many cultural organizations around a single topic was the brainchild of the Field Museum, the Newberry Library and private collectors who for years had dreamed of launching an exhibition of history's "100 most important maps," said Chicago industrialist Barry MacLean, a map collector.

But the more organizers talked, MacLean said, "We realized there were a lot of other extraordinary maps that wouldn't make the list of the top 100 but would be exciting to display, so we decided to expand."

The organizing committee eventually brought in 37 participating institutions, including the 30 signed up as exhibit venues.

Participating venues will display maps relating to that institution's specific interest, such as the Botanic Garden's display of "maps illustrating how seeds are spread by wind and birds, why a certain tree will grow in one place but not 100 miles away. Brookfield Zoo will have maps showing the migration of animals."

The Field Museum's exhibit will run through January 27, featuring many of the 100 greatest maps among 130 items it has gathered from the Vatican, the British royal family, libraries and other collectors.

Festival items will include Mercator's maps, and those of da Vinci and Tolkien; a 19th century driftwood carving of the Greenland coast, a 19th century British map shows a London well as the focus of a London cholera epidemic, a 200-year-old geological map, and a British soldier's powder horn from the French-Indian War carved with Hudson and Mohawk Rivers maps.

Other offerings:

*The Newberry Museum exhibit will demonstrate Chicago's growth, while population densities and transit systems will be displayed at The Chicago History Museum.

*See rare Paris maps (1789-1914) at the The Art Institute; 16th century Rome maps at the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago, while The Oriental Institute will display extensive 15-18th century Ottoman Empire collections

*Maps of Lithuania and Poland at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture and the Polish Museum of America.

*Antique African maps at Northwestern University Library.

*Adler Planetarium's exhibit focuses on mapping the universe, including a 1630 celestial globe.

*Spertus Museum/Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies exhibit (March 1-June 30) "Mapping Dystopia" features the work of contemporary Israeli- and Palestinian-born women artists whose work explores national borders along with antique maps of the Holy Land from the famous Spertus collection.

According to the story, museums will offer the map displays free or free with usual admission fees.

For more, click here. There is more information at the Festival's web site. The Festival Blog is here and mentions George Washington's only map, the famed Ptolemy's 14th-century Geography, da Vinci's colored relief map of Italy, a 3,500-year-old clay tablet of a Babylonian city, and even Tolkien's Middle-Earth. There are more map links for those who can't get enough.

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