Published: March 27, 2007
Historic Deerfield will kick off its 55th season with its first exhibition to focus on maps, titled “North by Northeast: Five Centuries of New England Maps,” opening Saturday, March 31. Visitors will gain access to a world-class collection of antique maps and mapmaking equipment spanning the period 1540 to 1918, including 19 important maps on loan from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The show will be on view in the Flynt Center of Early New England Life to August 12.
“Every map tells a story,” said David Bosse, Historic Deerfield’s librarian and guest curator of the exhibition. “A goal of the exhibition is to provide greater awareness of the biases and perspectives found in most maps, since they are always a product of their time †embodying the political, cultural and economic views of their makers.”
The name “New England” was first applied to the region by Captain John Smith in his cornerstone map originally published in A Description of New England (London, 1616). While Smith’s may be the most significant map in the exhibition, other cartographic highlights include the so-called “beaver map” by Herman Moll (London, 1735), a rare American map of the seat of war near Boston published during the American Revolution and a unique proof copy of Edward Hitchcock’s 1834 geological map of Massachusetts †the first published for any American state.
In addition to approximately 50 printed and manuscript maps, “North by Northeast” will also offer portraits, surveyors’ compasses, globes, reverse paintings on glass, powder horns, landscape views, printed diagrams and an orrery †a mechanical device used to illustrate the orbit of the earth and the moon.
“The exhibition is organized around eight themes, including mapmaking and map production,” said Bosse. “This allows us to include some very interesting objects in addition to the maps themselves. The other themes include defining New England; geographical literacy and learning; the politics of cartography; thematic and special purpose maps; the manmade landscape; cartography and conflict; and the elements of style: design and iconography.”
“The exhibition provides the opportunity to focus programs on maps and mapmaking,” said Amanda Rivera Lopez, director of museum education at Historic Deerfield. “On weekends in April and during school vacation week, families will discover hands-on activities related to the use and creation of maps.”
“North by Northeast” draws on the cartographic collections of several institutions. These include the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Amherst College Archives & Special Collections, Connecticut Historical Society Library, Harvard Map Collection of Harvard University, Mount Holyoke College Archives & Special Collections, the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association Library, Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College, the Hatfield Historical Society, private collections and Historic Deerfield.
For information, 413-775-7214 or www.historic-deerfield.org .
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