Historical Society's Extensive Map Collection Featured in “Minnesota on the Map”
Adapted from MHS press release
What we now know as Minnesota looked very different in maps and atlases in the 16th-century. In fact, the geographic, political and social landscape of this region has changed dramatically over the past 400 years. A new exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, offers a unique look at this sometimes imagined and always changing landscape.
“Minnesota on the Map: Four Centuries of Maps from the Minnesota Historical Society Collection,” Feb. 28 through Sept. 7, 2009, features dozens of maps, atlases and books from the Society’s extensive collection. Taken together this exhibit shows how the area was perceived first by explorers, later by settlers and how it is represented today.
Highlights of the exhibit include an atlas from 1595, a first edition copy of Father Hennepin’s 1683 book "Description de la Louisiane," with enclosed map, and a map of the Americas entitled "Americae Nova Tabula" created by William Blaeu (Amsterdam, 1617). “This stunningly beautiful Dutch map represents a high point in the golden age of cartography,” says Patrick Coleman, the Society’s map curator. “It depicts panoramic views of settlements in the New World, bordered by American Indians of various tribes in their characteristic dress.”
And finally, a recently acquired 1765 de l’Isle globe (see photo), though generous in its depiction of the Mississippi River and showing a fictional Northwest passage, is a valuable addition to the Society’s collection, as few globes from this era have survived because of their inherent fragility.
Coleman says “this is a collecting area of extraordinary depth at the Minnesota Historical Society, yet the presence of these treasures in our archives is not widely known by the general public.” To encourage the public’s use of these materials, visitors to the exhibit are invited to page through an original copy of an Andreas atlas of Minnesota from 1874. In addition, guests can return to the Society’s library to access any part of the collection. The Society holds more than 19,000 maps and nearly 2,000 volumes of atlases strongly emphasizing the Minnesota Territory and the state of Minnesota, its regions, counties and cities from 1849 to the present.
Offered in conjunction with the exhibit is the new book, “Minnesota On the Map: A Historical Atlas,” by David A. Lanegran, recently published by Minnesota Historical Society Press. It is available at the History Center’s Museum Stores, in bookstores or at the MHS online shop.