Monday, September 17, 2007

"Second City," No More! Chicago Celebrates Many Firsts with Festival of Maps

Has any city ever experienced the phenomenon of over thirty cultural institutions collaborating to present an outpouring of visual treasures illuminating one of man’s great intellectual achievements? This is exactly what will happen in Chicago this November. The Festival of Maps, presented by Chicago’s internationally renowned museums, universities, libraries and galleries, will feature maps from the mind of man. During all periods of recorded history, in all cultures, in all locations – from the floor of the sea to the solar system and beyond – maps testify to the special genius of human beings. Amazing treasures across four millennia will illustrate how mapmakers have wrestled with and conquered the problems of graphically presenting our journey through history. The results, from Babylonian clay tablet maps to digitized satellite images, will provide a visual and intellectual feast for visitors to Chicago.

Second City” no more! Chicago will celebrate a series of firsts during the Festival of Maps. Consider…for the first time ever

…twenty-eight venues will host exhibitions; another five organizations will sponsor lectures, seminars, and workshops; a collaboration of four organizations will mount a virtual exhibit on using geographic information systems (GIS) to inform public policy decisions; and one magazine will devote an entire issue to how artists use maps for inspiration. In museums, libraries and galleries…only in Chicago.

…all twenty-seven Renaissance editions of Ptolemy’s Geography, one of history’s great cartographic treasures, will be represented at the Newberry Library. Each volume will be opened to a different map, allowing visitors to see each of the work’s twenty-seven maps. Ptolemy’s maps opened the world to Europeans in the 15th century. Rarest of all will be a 1477 edition, the first ever printed. The Ptolemy 27….only in Chicago.

…the only map George Washington ever drew will be exhibited as part of Mapping Manifest Destiny, also at the Newberry Library. The map records a turning point in the history of the American colonies. At age 23, Washington traveled to the “far west” (as far west as Pittsburgh, that is) to drive the French from the Ohio River Valley. A skirmish with French colonial troops thus began the French and Indian Wars, some say, and led to the eventual domination of the English over the French in the American colonies. George Washington’s only map on view…only in Chicago.

…the first use of colors to depict differences in altitude appears in a relief map of central Italy by Leonardo da Vinci. A rare loan from Queen Elizabeth’s collection at Windsor Castle brings this gem to The Field Museum/Newberry show Maps: Finding Our Place in the World. A first for Leonardo on its first visit to the U.S. …here in Chicago.

Stay tuned for many more “firsts” in future blog posts. But please, don’t leave without checking out a few of the Festival’s venues.

Ken Nebenzahl is a leading expert in the field of cartography and is an advisor to the Festival of Maps.

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