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Delaware museum shows historical American maps
By Susan Emerson Nutter

WINTERTHUR, Del. — With today’s variety of hand-held GPS devices, does anyone even look at maps anymore? As a matter of fact, they do especially when the map in question is a piece of America’s historical past, and thematically displayed in the Winterthur Museum.

Winterthur is offering a variety of examples of antique maps and items adorned with maps that are on display through Jan. 5, 2014, via the informative exhibit, Common Destinations: Maps in the American Experience.

The display, hosted in the Graves and West Galleries, celebrates the importance of maps in the 18th and 19th centuries; a time when maps were not only used to chart locations, they were key to the American experience. Maps became the social glue that gave the young American nation a sense of community.

Visitors to this exhibit will journey through our nation’s history from the colonial wars, the American Revolution, and the years when the United States built itself to become a world power.

The exhibit taken from Winterthur’s extensive collection includes traditional maps on paper in addition to a variety of objects decorated with maps. Everything from ceramics, playing cards, handkerchiefs and fans has been adorned with maps.

Six themes tell the story of maps in the American experience make up Common Destination exhibit; they include:

•Sociable Maps: Parlors and Pubs – Maps as conversation starters? Indeed, whether at home, in taverns or coffee shops, maps were popular conversation pieces with which Americans debated political affairs or explored their knowledge of the world.

•Indoors/Outdoors: Men and Their Maps – In an era where land ownership was synonymous with social status, maps played a crucial role in the political and commercial activities and the personal lives of American men. Maps were also utilized by men for traveling and for interacting via reading and writing.

•Maps in a Woman’s World – Likewise, American women also utilized maps for many endeavors from teaching purposes to inspiring needlework and embroidery ideas. Maps showed up in interior decorating and on handkerchiefs and fans.

•Before the Revolution: Science, Pictures and Baroque Maps – In the 18th century, often the decorative appeal of maps was just as important as their accuracy. Many maps featured elaborate designs taken from the popular styles of the day, and included scientific data.

•The National Map: 1784-1815 – More than any other time, maps created after the Revolutionary War helped a young nation build a sense of community. These first domestically created maps illustrated national unity and became part of the school curriculum thereby helping to build a new society.

•Maps and Masses: Cartography in the Industrial Age – The coming of the Industrial Age made the mass production of maps doable. Machine-made paper combined with lithography made it so map ownership was now available to all.

Common Destinations offers a way to examine American history through maps and map-related objects that helped shape the growth of America.

Contact: (800) 448-3883

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