Maps In UT Collection Blend Art With Worldview

Feb 27, 2015

Lindsey Waugh, Coordinator for Academic Programs at UT's McClung Museum sorts through a stack of ancient maps recently donated to the museum's collection.
Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

The University of Tennessee's McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture recently received a gift of 191 maps, some dating from the late 16th century.  Many of the older maps blend artistic renderings of sea monsters, sailing ships and native peoples with practical depictions of the physical landscape.  In short, the mapmakers put the "art" in "cartography".

That was not uncommon at the time, says Lindsey Waugh, Coordinator of Academic Programs at McClung.  "These maps represent expressions of civic pride, of national pride."

They also reveal a lot about the way humans have evolved culturally over the past 400 years.   "I think that's really important to keep in mind," says Waugh, "and have that be an indication of how politics, society and science change the way we view the world around us."