British Library investigates the power of maps

Maps tell us much more about a place than just where to go. The history, culture and biases of mapmakers all find their way into these uniquely geographic works of art. A new exhibition at the British Library titled Magnificent Maps aims to give visitors a closer look at the culture behind maps, bringing together a one-of-a-kind collection of important historic maps from as far back as 200AD, special events and an interactive website.

The maps featured at the British Library exhibition aren’t just your average Rand McNally fold-up. The event’s centerpiece is the Klencke Atlas from 1660, the largest book in the world, coming in at over five feet tall and six feet wide. Among the other 80 some odd display pieces is range of never-before-seen artifacts, including a miniscule coin showing a map of the German town of Nuremberg from 1773. The exhibit aims to show the maps in a new light, one in which they are not just reference tools but works of art, often created by powerful kings and countries hoping to further their own purposes. In connection with the special events, the BBC has also launched a series of content on maps, including special programming and articles surrounding the topic.

It’s easy to take maps for granted as factual, scientific documents. But as Magnificent Maps tries to show us, these documents are open to interpretation. The exhibit is happening from April 30th through September 19th of 2010 at the Library’s headquarters in London.