Arts

Stanford's Beautiful
Map Collection

The David Rumsey Map Center features 150,000 pieces of cartographic
work from across the centuries.
SOUNDSMITH: This 1850 illustration shows the EarthÕs path around its star.

The thought of printed maps may bring you back to the tedium of a 5th grade history class, but the new David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford University is like no geography lesson you ever had. The collection of more than 150,000 rare maps, globes, atlases and other cartographic paraphernalia was donated in 2009 by longtime map collector David Rumsey a San Francisco real estate developer and chairman of Luna Imaging. With artifacts dating back to the 15th century, the Rumsey Collection is a veritable compendium of cartography.

Physically, the Center seems both expansive—almost spare—yet filled to the brim with visual information. While the space is rich with with visual history, context and synthesis comes alive through the Center's two wall-sized, digital interactive maps. Measured at 12 feet by x 7 feet, and 16 feet by 9 feet, the massive touch-screens give a completely new dimension to visualizing maps and spaces. With a swipe of a finger, the viewer can navigate around cities like San Francisco or Paris, zooming in to the smallest details, or interposing old maps on sections of a city, connecting history with the modern day. The David Rumsey Map Center's also features the exhibition 'A Universe of Maps.' This collection of 150 rare maps and atlases is a fascinating peek into the history of cartography. While it features the first edition of Lewis & Clark's Account of the Expedition, the emphasis is on the more arcane and obscure artifacts, including a 1933 map of the London Underground, and Abraham Ortelius's Threatrum orbit terrarium; written in 1570, a leather-bound tome considered to be the world's first atlas.

Along with 'A Universe of Maps' and the rest of the Rumsey Collection, The Rumsey Map Center will hold other Stanford collections, including historical maps from the Branner Earth Sciences Library, and California as an Island, the Glen McLaughlin Collection created by the legendary Silicon Valley VC . A map-lover's dream, the collection is so vast that it's easy to get lost in one small section of the exhibition—particularly with the wall-sized interactive screens. And yet it's neatly organized, accessible, and technologically chic.

Coming across a collection with this level of quality and scope is a rare find for any University Library, and Stanford's transformation of the collection into an interactive learning tool is an even rarer gift to the Bay Area.

A Universe of Maps
M-F, 1pm-5pm, Free
David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford


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