Past Events

December 15, 2016, 5:30
David Weimer presented a guided exhibition tour- Where Disaster Strikes: Modern Space and the Visualization of Destruction
Harvard Map Collection at Pusey Library

Harvard Yard, Cambridge

Fires, volcanoes, floods, bombs, tornadoes, tsunamis. We can easily understand their effect on the built and natural landscape because they happen so suddenly. The Harvard Map Collection invited guests to see 350 years of maps that try to visualize the sudden devastation of disaster, from the London Fire of 1666 through the bombing of Hiroshima to the cities we see destroyed in our movies. Through these maps, we saw how our modern spaces define what counts as disaster and how disasters continue to shape the spaces around us.

November 10, 2016, 5:30 pm
Boston Public Library, Commonwealth Salon
James A. Welu, Director Emeritus of the Worcester Art Museum, presented a lecture about Jan Vermeer’s The Geographer

No other painter from 17th-century Holland expressed a greater interest in cartography than Jan Vermeer. His detailed depictions of maps and globes coincide with the great age of exploration and mapmaking. This lecture by the leading authority on Vermeer’s use of cartographic material demonstrated that all of the maps and globes in Vermeer’s paintings can be identified, though few originals still exist. These cartographic objects and the ways in which Vermeer used them not only add further meaning to his allegorical subjects and scenes of everyday life; they also shed light on Vermeer’s working method, including his possible use of the camera obscura.

Named Director Emeritus of the Worcester Art Museum in 2011, James Welu joined the staff of the Museum in 1974 as assistant curator and went on to serve 6 years as chief curator and 25 years as director. Born in Dubuque, Iowa, Welu began his career as an artist and taught studio art in college before pursuing further studies in art history.  He holds a BA from Loras College, an MA and MFA in studio art from the University of Notre Dame, a PhD in art history from Boston University.

October 19, 2016, 5:30 pm
Boston Public Library, Abbey Room
Peter Whitfield Mapping Shakespeare’s World

Saturday, June 25, 2016
Field Trip to the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
99 Warren Street, Brookline (just off Rt 9)

A special tour for 25 Boston Map Society members. (If you’re not a member yet, see the Membership page and join!)

One-of-a-kind tour for BMS members plus a bonus talk with the Olmsted archivist. Frederick Law Olmsted NHS preserves and interprets the home and office of pioneer landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and his successor firms. Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) is widely recognized as the founder of the American landscape architecture design profession and the nation’s foremost park-maker. The site, which he named Fairsted, with its 19th-century house, attached early 20th-century office wing, rustic barn, and designed landscape, retains the pastoral character that drew Olmsted to Brookline, MA, in 1883.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library

The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library partnered with The Trustees in celebration of their 125th Anniversary on a 70-item exhibition, featuring maps, photographs, and historical items from both collections. Visitors were introduced to Trustees properties, became familiar with a number of distinctive map formats, learned about natural landforms and geologic terms, and cultivated an appreciation for the natural, historical, and cultural treasures of Massachusetts.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 5:30
The Land Remains: A Century of Conservation in America’s National Parks
Pusey Library, Harvard Yard, Cambridge

Walk and talk through the new exhibit with Bonnie Burns and Scott Walker.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at 5:30

MAP: Exploring the World 
A reception and talk about contributing to this book by Kris Butler

10 St. James Avenue, 11th Floor (Holland & Knight)
Boston, MA (Arlington T)

Kris Butler contributed over 30 stories and explanations about the maps in this book, and she told about some of her favorites. From a scent map of Glasgow by artist Kate McLean and a 1932 illustrated map of Harlem’s night clubs by E. Simms Campbell, to maps on early playing cards, an “interactive” 1957 Tour de France map, the map that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Treasure Island, and many more.

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March 30, 2016 at 5:30
The World for a King: Pierre Desceliers’ Map of 1550 
The Castle Room, Boston University, Hillel House
213 Bay State Road, Boston 

Chet Van Duzer gave an account of the large (4.4 × 7 feet) and elaborately decorated manuscript world map made by the Norman cartographer Pierre Desceliers in 1550 (British Library, Add. MS 24065). Following a look at the map’s genre, principal characteristics, and the circumstances of its creation as a gift for Henry II of France, he demonstrated the cartographer’s greater interest in Asia than other contemporary Norman cartographers; discussed evidence that the cartographer hired multiple artists to decorate the map; and reviewed the sources of both the map’s illustrations and its descriptive texts. Finally he addressed the question of whether the map’s large southern continent represents a “pre-discovery” of Australia – that is, a discovery of Australia before the generally recognized discovery by the Dutch in 1606 – arguing that it did not; and examined the influence of Desceliers and other Norman cartographers.

March 22, 2016
Missing Women, Blank Maps, and Data Voids: What gets counted counts
Boston Public Library, in conjunction with the Women in Cartography exhibition, Boston

Professor Joni Seager, feminist geographer and Chair at Bentley University, discussed the persistent paucity of gender-disaggregated data. She is the author of the internationally renowned “State of the Women in the World Atlas,” first published in 1986. Now in its fourth edition, the atlas has been published in more than a dozen foreign-language editions; in 2016 it will be released in Persian in Iran. Joni has worked with a number of governments and the UN on developing gender-sensitive statistical protocols. She is also a globally recognized expert in the field of gender and environmental policy, and has worked around the world on projects in this field.

March 3, 2016 
A History of the Coast Survey, 1807 – 1879
Boston Public Library

Robert “Bob” Paine led a talk on the important and often dangerous and difficult work of the US Coast Survey- the oldest governmental scientific organization in the United States. He shared some intriguing maps and artifacts as well.

Bob Paine is the owner and proprietor of Old Charts of New England, specializing in Coast Survey documents. He is a commercial diver, marine surveyor, and navigation instructor, a USCG Ocean master to 3000 tons, has supervised dive operations and remote sensing projects worldwide, and has been a dive supervisor and captain on Project Whydah for seven years.

Feb 26, 2016
Map Tour and Scotch Tasting
Langham Hotel, Boston

Dr. Ron “Eagle Eye” Grim, Curator of Maps at the Normal B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, led a group through these historic maps of Boston located in the Langham Hotel while guests tasted Scotch. The collection, depicting a topographical transformation of Boston over 300 years, is in an oft-unused, practically hidden, room.

December 15, 2015, 5:30
Terra Firma: The Beginnings of the MHS Map Collection
Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street

Curator Mary Yacovone (right, below, pictured with Jonathan Rosenwasser of Harvard’s Map Collection) led a talk and tour of this exhibit.

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December 2, 2015
Embellishing the Map: Empty Spaces and Treacherous Waters
The Harvard Map Collection, Pusey Library, Harvard Yard, Cambridge

Jonathan Rosenwasser led a tour of the latest map exhibit of animals and other map embellishments.

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Jonathan Rosenwasser addresses the crowd of map enthusiasts.

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November 19, 2015
Before Mandela: The Cartographic View of South Africa, 1513 – 1918
Afriterra Foundation, 400 Commonwealth Ave., Boston

Lucia Louison, Geospatial Director and Librarian, presented a talk and walk through the exhibit.

Lucia

November 12, 2015, 5:30
Women in Cartography
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library
Commonwealth Salon

Alice Hudson (right), former Chief of the Map Division at the New York Public Library, discussed the works of better-known women cartographers. Her talk celebrated the long overlooked role of women in the world of mapping, bringing their stories, accomplishments, and most importantly their maps, to light.

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October 21, 2015
The Art of Illustrated Maps: A Complete Guide to Creative Mapmaking’s History, Process, and Imagination, with author John Roman
Boston Public Library, Commonwealth Salon

Author, educator, and map illustrator John Roman discussed his book on the history and inspiration behind map design and illustration.

October 5, 2015
The Colonies in Context: The Place of North America in King George’s World View
Boston Public Library

As noted on the Boston Public Library’s website, Peter Barber spoke on The Colonies in Context: The Place of North America in King George’s World View.  This program was presented as part of the Lowell Lecture Series and Revolutionary Boston, a citywide commemoration.

September 8, 2015 at 6:00 pm
Rebels, Redcoats, & Revolutionary Maps
Boston Public Library, Abbey Room (book talk)

Richard Brown, co-author of Revolution: Mapping the Road to American Independence, 1755-1783 (W.W. Norton, 2015) spoke about maps reflecting Boston’s role during the Revolutionary War period. The authors were available to sign copies of their book. Ronald Grim, Curator gave a tour of the exhibition We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence following the talk.

Thursday, June 18, 2015, 5:30
The Ancestry of the Mother Road: Mapping Route 66
The Harvard Map Collection, Pusey Library, Harvard Yard

Route 66 looms large in American culture. In song and story, the mother road carries us to the promise of a better life. This talk and tour was about the railroad scouts and surveyors, early auto adventurers, dust bowl migrants, suburban road-tripping families, all following their own paths, but all on the same road.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 6:00
We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence 
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library

This talk will focused on the Revolutionary War Exhibit that runs through November. The exhibit is divided into three parts: Maps Serving the Empire, Mapping the Rebellion, and Maps Serving a New Nation. It features around 60 maps and 40 related documents, paintings, and objects.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015, 5:30 – 7:30
Beacons of the Water World: The Evolution of the Sea Chart
Opening reception and exhibit followed by a talk by Joseph Garver.

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For much of human history the most efficient and least cumbersome way to cover long distances and transport goods was on water. Yet navigation—whether by canoe, galley, caravel, ketch, or schooner—was never without its hazards. Survival often depended upon detailed information gathered orally from seasoned mariners or from written instructions compiled from numerous logs of voyages into unfamiliar seas. By the late 16th century, the expansion of trade within Europe and the increasing pace of exploration abroad created an urgent need for reliable accounts and accurate surveys of new navigational routes. This exhibit investigated the evolution of sea charts—from pilot books with a focus on European waters to multi-volume atlases ranging the great seas of the world. It surveyed the major chartmakers of the Netherlands, England, and France, with attention to the development of a common symbolic language for depicting navigational hazards and aids.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 5:30 – 7:30
At a Glance: Early Methods of Cartographic Visualization

Opening reception and exhibit followed by a talk by Joseph Garver.

The Harvard Map Collection, Pusey Library, Harvard Yard

From their earliest manifestations, maps have embodied some form of data visualization. Whether describing geographical coordinates, navigational hazards, transportation routes, or the night sky, maps have served to distill the complexities of our observations and render them more readily comprehensible. However, the cartographic techniques used to depict topographical features and the built environment were often of limited utility in illustrating data derived from in-depth investigations of the physical universe, the biosciences, the economy, or the social system. This exhibit explored early experimentations in visualization impelled by the explosion of empirical data (and the infrastructure for collecting statistics) since the late 18th century. It included thematic maps of disease, crime, geological strata, ethnographic patterns, and electoral results.

October 16, 2014, 5:30pm, Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library

Michael Blanding discussed his book The Map Thief as part of the Author Talk Series

The story of an infamous crime, a revered map dealer with an unsavory secret, and the ruthless subculture that consumed him

The Map Thief interweaves Smiley’s escapades with the stories of the explorers and mapmakers he knew better than anyone. Tracking a series of thefts as brazen as the art heists in Provenance and a subculture as obsessive as the oenophiles in The Billionaire’s Vinegar, Blanding pieced together an unforgettable story of high-stakes crime.

September 11, 2014, 5:30pm, Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library

Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth Century America – Susan Schulten (University of Denver) This was part of the BPL’s Author Talk Series.

In the nineteenth century, Americans began to use maps in radically new ways. For the first time, medical men mapped diseases to understand and prevent epidemics, natural scientists mapped climate and rainfall to uncover weather patterns, educators mapped the past to foster national loyalty among students, and Northerners mapped slavery to assess the power of the South. After the Civil War, federal agencies embraced statistical and thematic mapping in order to profile the ethnic, racial, economic, moral, and physical attributes of a reunified nation. By the end of the century, Congress had authorized a national archive of maps, an explicit recognition that old maps were not relics to be discarded but unique records of the nation’s past.

All of these experiments involved the realization that maps were not just illustrations of data, but visual tools that were uniquely equipped to convey complex ideas and information. In Mapping the Nation, Susan Schulten charts how maps of epidemic disease, slavery, census statistics, the environment, and the past demonstrated the analytical potential of cartography, and in the process transformed the very meaning of a map.

Today, statistical and thematic maps are so ubiquitous that we take for granted that data will be arranged cartographically. Whether for urban planning, public health, marketing, or political strategy, maps have become everyday tools of social organization, governance, and economics. The world we inhabit—saturated with maps and graphic information—grew out of this sea change in spatial thought and representation in the nineteenth century, when Americans learned to see themselves and their nation in new dimensions.

July 23, 2014, 5:30pm, Harvard Map Collection, Pusey Library

Bonnie Burns, Librarian for Geographic Information Services
From the Alps to the Ocean: Maps of the Western Front at the Harvard Map Collection

World War One is often described as the first truly modern war, a war where advances in technology had outpaced the tactical thinking of the day. The massive changes that occurred in the field of military technology were mirrored in the field of map mapmaking. New technologies led to new cartographic methods and techniques and to an increased reliance on maps. On the battlefield, cartographers were churning out maps of the trenches almost daily. At home, maps were being used to rally the home front in Europe and to try to convince the United States to join the Entente powers. Immediately after the war, maps were used to help decide how to redefine Europe.

On the centennial of the start of the war, Bonnie Burns explored the roles of maps and mapping on the battlefield and at home.

June 11, 2014, 5:30pm, Leventhal Map Center

Joel Kovarsky, The Prime Meridian: Antique Maps and Books
The True Geography of Our Country: Jefferson’s Cartographic Vision

A philosopher, architect, astronomer, and polymath, Thomas Jefferson lived at a time when geography was considered the “mother of all sciences.” Although he only published a single printed map, Jefferson was also regarded as a geographer, due to his interest in and use of geographic and cartographic materials during his many careers—attorney and regional and national politician—and in his twilight years at Monticello. For roughly twenty-five years he was involved with almost all elements of the urban planning of Washington, D.C., and his surveying skills were reflected in his architectural drawings, including of the iconic grounds of the University of Virginia. He understood maps not only as valuable for planning but as essential for future land claims and development, exploration and navigation, and continental commercial enterprise.

The True Geography of Our Country: Jefferson’s Cartographic Vision charts the importance of geography and maps as foundations of Jefferson’s lifelong pursuits. Although the world had already seen the Age of Exploration and the great sea voyages of Captain James Cook, Jefferson lived in a time when geography was of primary importance, prefiguring the rapid specializations of the mid- to late-nineteenth-century world. In his exploration of Jefferson’s passion for geography, including how our third President was a key participant in planning the route followed and regions explored by Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery, as well as other expeditions into the vast expanse of the Louisiana Purchase. Kovarsky reveals how geographical knowledge was essential to the manifold interests of the Sage of Monticello.

May 8, 2014, 5:30pm, Leventhal Map Center
Hiawatha Bray, Boston Globe
You Are Here:  From the Compass to GPS the history and future of How We find Ourselves

What does it mean to never get lost?  Mr. Bray examined the rise of our era of navigational omniscience — or how we came to know exactly where we are at all times.  In a sweeping history of the development of location technology, Bray showed how radio signals created to carry telegraph messages were transformed into invisible beacons to guide ships and how rapidly spinning wheels steered submarines beneath the polar icecap.  But while most of these technologies were developed for and by the military, they are now ubiquitous in our everyday lives.  Our phones are now smart enough to pinpoint our presence to within a few feet—and nosy enough to share that information with government and corporations.  This is the story of how humankind solved one of its oldest problems—only to herald a new era in which it’s impossible to hide.

April 8, 2014, Harvard Map Collection, Pusey Library
Courting Clio: Maps and the Historical Imagination, Joseph Garver, Research Librarian, Harvard Map Collection

Ever since the revival of classical learning in the Renaissance, Europe’s most prominent mapmakers—including Mercator, Ortelius, Janssonius, Sanson, and Delisle—have regarded it as part of their professional duty to apply their craft to an imaginative restoration of the past. Each age has its own peculiar Zeitgeist (yearning for a golden age, looking for inspiration in religious saints or secular heroes, or taking satisfaction in the extent of progress from “less enlightened” times), but the urge to court Clio (the muse of history) has been an ongoing theme in cartographic circles. This exhibit explores the ways in which mapmakers frame past events, how they deploy textual and graphic aids in the service of historical narrative, and how they endeavor to convey temporal changes through static images. Whether the subject is the Exodus, the conquests of Alexander the Great, the barbarian invasions of Europe, or the arduous trek of Mormons to the Great Salt Lake, the focus here is on efforts to map our collective peregrinations through time. This exhibit is on view from March 13 – July 8, 2014.

March 11, 2014, Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library
Christina Connett
Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at the New Bedford Whaling Museum

“Cartography and Empire in Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del mar Océano by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesilla”

In the sixteenth century, some of Spain’s most intriguing imperialistic strategies of asserting its New World claims are the official histories commissioned by the monarchy and the use of cartography to support these narratives and their relevant agendas. This talk reflected upon the cartographic elements employed in one of the most ambitious of these projects, the Historia General de los hechos de los castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del mar Océano, 1601-1615, by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, with the purpose of better understanding and broadening the arc of historical discourse on this work. While much scholarship has been given to the text of the Historia, its author, context, and sources, there have been no thorough examinations of the title pages and maps, particularly using a methodology which combines cartographic and art historical analyses. Herrera’s use of maps was an active, not a passive effort in legitimizing Catholic Spain’s claims on the Americas and to analyze and contextualize this cartographic strategy of possession. By using Christian and classical iconography and humanist historiographical structure embedded in a cartographic program, Herrera addresses Catholic obligations in the Americas particularly in response to Protestant propaganda; unifies and nationalizes the New World within the Catholic Habsburg monarchy; and legitimizes possession of new territories and the governance of the Indians.

A Taste of Scotch and Tour of New England Maps 
When: Tuesday, February 18, 2014, Boston Harbor Hotel
6:00 pm – Selected sipping preference with the help of Veteran bartender Brian in the Rowes Wharf Bar
6:30 pm – Toured the maps of New England on display in the Boston Harbor Hotel lobby with Leventhal Map Curator Ron Grim
The Scotch tasting was pay-as-you-go; the tour was free.

Made in Boston with guest curator Michael Buehler
When: Jan 16, 2014 5:30 pm
Where: The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library (700 Boylston Street, Boston)
This exhibition afforded a unique perspective on the ambitions, anxieties and sense of identity that animated colonial Bostonians.

A City Evolves: Maps and Visions of Boston from 1775 – Present
Introduction and commentary by Carolyn Bennett, Manager of the Office of Digital Cartography and GIS
November 19, 2013, at the Boston Redevelopment Authority in City Hall

Mapping the Revolutionary War in Virginia
A lecture by William Wooldridge, author of Mapping Virginia, from the Age of Exploration to the Civil War
May 21, 2013, 5:30, at the Boston Public Library