Antique maps have the power to intrigue, even dazzle, us. They are both scientific documents and works of art. More than anything, however, they tell us stories of humankind’s gradual awakening to the world we inhabit and the explorers who led the way. Part of an ongoing gift to the University from the collection of John F. and Susan B. Smith, the maps featured in this audio-visual tour were made in the 16th through 21st centuries. It’s a saga of high ambition and abysmal ignorance, religious zeal and lust for wealth, courage in the pursuit of conquest coupled with maltreatment of indigenous peoples, and often death in lands far from home.
The maps are accompanied by brief audio commentaries by their collector, John Smith. Hopefully you will find the commentaries useful as you ponder how the makers of these remarkable and often beautiful works, operating with imperfect tools and less than complete information, contrived to make sense of the world.