McClung Museum receives rare maps

KNOXVILLE—Almost 200 rare maps of Europe and other parts of the world created between the 1500s and 1800s now belong to the UT McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Twenty of the maps are currently on display in the Burchfiel Geography Building. These, and the other maps housed in the museum’s collections, will be used for exhibition and teaching at the museum. They also will be used for undergraduate and graduate coursework on the history of maps and mapmaking from the sixteenth century onward and the importance of such maps to navigation, world politics, business and trade, agriculture, exploration, colonialism, and warfare.

“This collection of maps is a meaningful addition to our resources available for teaching, and several UT faculty have already taken advantage of the availability of the maps as a tool for inspiring meaningful discussions in their classrooms about cultural identity, political boundaries, and change, as well as socioeconomic conditions,” said Lindsey Waugh, the McClung Museum’s coordinator of academic programs.

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Students in Jovana Babovic’s Central European Cities class discuss political power, cultural perception, and urban development as they view seventeenth and eighteenth-century maps in the McClung Museum’s object study room. Photo submitted.

Most of the 191 maps are copperplate engravings with painstakingly applied hand color. They were created by mapmaking giants of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, including Gerard Mercator, the famous cartographer who was the first to plot the straight-line courses (Mercator projection) typical on today’s maps; Abraham Ortelius, the creator of the first modern atlas; Nicholas Visscher, whose family made some of the most famous maps during the golden age of Dutch mapmaking; and Guillaume DeLisle, popular for his maps of newly explored Africa and the Americas.

The gift came to the museum from Jeffery M. Leving, attorney and founder of Fathers’ Rights in Chicago. Two additional maps were gifted by Orrin Lippoff of Brooklyn, New York, and Robert J. Isakson of Mobile, Alabama. The museum worked closely with W. Graham Arader III, owner of Arader Galleries and a longtime UT donor, who facilitated these gifts.