Saturday, 12 November 2016

British Library Maps Exhibition

The British Library is currently hosting an exhibition of maps and mapping called Drawing the Line.

I visited earlier this week, en route to the Royal Geographical Society.
There is a catalogue of the exhibition which I'd like for Christmas please :)

There is a range of mapping items from a Weetabix atlas (which I remember getting multiple copies of when I was a new teacher) to an atlas which is one of the few known to be hand-drawn by Gerhard Mercator.

The first item in the exhibition is also a copy of 'The Map that Came to Life', which I've written about numerous times before as being an influence on me being a teacher having read it lots of times when I was younger.
The second item in the exhibition was a large copy of a Ben Hennig's Anthropocene cartogram, which was getting a lot of attention.
The floor was covered with contours and other map-related patterns which also spread across the seating and walls, and there was also a section with an idealised map of a town. There were sections on maps for war and peace, and also maps in fantasy, as well as trade and commerce and communications.
Not all of the exhibits were as successful as other, and some didn't really capture my interest - "has it got a map on it? - yes - stick it on the wall then", and there weren't many maps that had the impact of scale or being particularly exquisite. Most of the maps were also ink on paper, rather than some of the multi-media or textural maps that could have been included, although it is a library exhibition after all.
The final section was one of the highlights, with a few great maps. The first of these was Harry Beck's original sketch as part of his work on the London Underground tube map. The second was a map of Mordor, drawn on graph paper by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was great to see the hand-drawn contour lines and lettering, and he'd drawn it on 2mm graph paper so that he could work out the scale of the distances travelled by characters so that the story hung together. There was also a copy of a map made by Marie Tharp of the oceans - one of my geo-heroes.

The final map formed part of the research notebook of one of the compilers of the first Lonely Planet guide, of South America. Looking closely revealed that he was less than enamoured of the places he visited describing one as a 'dump' and saying of another that there was 'f*** all there'... a few more of those pages would have been good to see...
Overall, this is an excellent exhibition, and one that is well worth seeing if you are down in London over the next few months.
There's also a good range of merchandise: books, stationery, bags and other stuff...

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