Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Learning about maps

Thanks to New England Archivists’ Hale Award for professional development, in June I was able to attend a course on the history, collection, description, and use of maps at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. Taught by Alice Hudson, chief of the Map Division at New York Public Library, this class of 14 students included lively and knowledgeable map librarians, collectors, and antiquarian dealers from around the country. This course was a fascinating and helpful mix of group exercises and fun hands-on work with original maps, atlases, and globes. Below instructor Alice Hudson explains the cartouche used in this early atlas.

We learned map concepts and the elements of a map as well as approaches to cataloging maps. Because an understanding of printing history is crucial for dating early maps, we were fortunate to be able to actually operate a printing press. Shown below is Terry Belanger, founder and director of Rare Book School, demonstrating to the class how to work the press.

The maps in the Special Collections department of the State Library of Massachusetts are very well preserved, stored, and cataloged. This terrific course gave me a much deeper understanding of the history of cartography in general as well as ideas about new ways to approach our map collection here at the State House. I look forwrad to offering a workshop about the State Library’s own map and atlas collection in the coming months.

Paige Roberts
Head of Special Collections