Eddy Perez | Photographer | Office of Communications & University Relations  

Hill Memorial exhibit displays historical maps in fact and fiction

For most, maps are a way to a destination. For some, they may serve as a place of imagination—where “X” marks the spot. But for others, maps serve simply as a piece of art.

On March 23, Hill Memorial Library’s Special Collection opened “Mariners, Meridians and Monsters: Exploring the History of Maps in Fact and Fiction.” Until August 15, the second floor gallery will be a collection of places—from general to detailed maps, road and city maps There are pirate maps and maps for the blind, maps to draw laughter and even a few that are too big to carry.

The exhibit was researched and put together by Hill Memorial’s assistant curator of books, Michael Taylor. Taylor’s regular job at the library includes obtaining unique books and texts for the collection. However, this is the second exhibit he has worked on; his first being “The Pathway to Promise: 1500 Years of Religious Texts and Moral Guidebooks in 2008.”

“I just think maps are interesting,” Taylor said. “I wanted to show what we already had in the library.”

Taylor said a majority of the featured maps were already in the library collections, but a few were bought for the exhibit including a map for the blind from 1873.

“Maps can create ideas for research, but they are also fun to look at,” Taylor said. “I wanted to highlight the Louisiana maps, but other interesting ones came with it.”

The exhibit is divided into cases by categories including early maps, Civil War, map projections, exploration and science, bird’s eye views, Mississippi River, and Louisiana tourism.

Taylor said popular maps among visitors include the maps in fiction and mythology, humorous maps, and plantation maps.

The display of fiction maps includes a visual from William Faulkner’s 1936 novel, Absalom, Absalom!, which takes place in the South, primarily Mississippi. Also featured is the fictional map from Gulliver’s Travels, written by Jonathan Swift in 1754. The map displays the unique places Gulliver went such as Lilliput, Blefuscu, and Brobdingnag.

The humorous maps were framed for the exhibition and include a “Texan’s Idea of the United States” from An Atlas of Fantasy by J.B. Post, published in 1973. The black and white map is a contorted view of the U.S., with Texas taking up more than 50 percent of the states, and the other southern states merely named “Deep Unclaimed South.”

Several of the glass cases display early maps of various parts of Louisiana. The bird’s eye view section displays an aerial shot of Shreveport in 1872. The Early Louisiana case displays an early map of Louisiana, also called “Description de la Louisiane,” made by Louis Hennepin in 1863. There is a map of Louisiana from 1822, created just 10 years after Louisiana was admitted to the Union.

Some of the maps cover Louisiana tourism such as a map of New Orleans featured in Picayune’s Guide to New Orleans published in 1897. There are also pictures and maps of LSU’s campus in 1909.

A unique feature of the exhibit is a large atlas, approximately four feet tall. There are two separate volumes encased, one of them open to a map of Napoleon’s French scientific expedition to Egypt.

Holly Ann Phillips | Writer | Office of Communications & University Relations
June 2009