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Posts Tagged ‘boston public library’


Map: Athanasius Kircher, from Mundus Subterraneus (Amsterdam, 1665)
Beneath Our Feet: Mapping the World Below is on exhibit through February 25 at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library.

You don’t have to be keen on fantasies like Alice’s Adventures Underground or Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth to be fascinated by maps of the world below our feet.

That is why, as Allison Meier writes at Hyperallergic, the Boston Public Library (BPL) is sharing its amazing array of subterranean cartography — from mythology to science, from the God of Death in Pompeii to leaded water in Flint, Michigan.

“Only in recent centuries have cartographers visualized what’s underground,” she writes. “Early mapmakers employed mythology to explain the volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that seemed to erupt from some dark force, and sometimes swallow whole communities, like Pompeii or Herculaneum. Even now, our ability to delve below the thin crust on which we’ve built our civilization is limited by the intense pressure and molten magma that churns within the planet. …

“The Leventhal Map Center is exhibiting ‘Beneath Our Feet: Mapping the World Below,’ featuring 400 years of subterranean maps from their collections. These visualize volcanoes, catacombs, pipelines, mines, and seabeds, ranging from 19th-century geological surveys to 21st-century sensing technology. …

“ ‘We’re seeing that these maps were typically produced much later than the weather maps,’ [Stephanie Cyr, associate curator] explained. The exhibition is organized into different underground subjects, such as ‘Earth’s Crust,’ ‘Oceans,’ ‘Mining,’ ‘Archaeology,’ and ‘Beneath Boston.’ These are all further explored in an online component. …

“As soon as people found a way to map the Earth’s underground, they began to exploit it as a resource, drilling natural gas pipelines and digging coal mines.

“Yet as Cyr noted, ‘Before we could actually get down there and explore and survey it, people had to cope with things in the best way they could, and mythology helped people do that.’

“A 17th-century map on view, by Athanasius Kircher, has a tumultuous subsurface scene, with a ball of fire at the center of the Earth and all its bodies of water linked by underground waterways. …

“The maps in ‘Beneath Our Feet’ continue into the 21st century. … And (as the inclusion of maps of lead testing in Flint, Michigan, and the invasive technique of fracking remind viewers) this knowledge can have a significant impact on the lives of the people above.”

If you can’t get to the show, you can at least see some great underground maps here and explore the online features of the show.

Hat tip: Michelle Aldredge (@gwarlingo) on twitter.

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Back in the day, a regular on the kids’ television show Howdy Doody was a putative Indian called Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring. The last two seasons in her name were run together as if they were one word.

Lately, “WinterSpring” seems to be the right name for what we’re experiencing in New England. Here are a few pictures from my confused season.

There are four photos of the beautiful Boston Public Library. The hardest shot to get was a lion not surrounded by photographers and visitors posing for their picture. While I was at the library, I was delighted to hear the retired Massachusetts chief justice being interviewed by Boston Public Radio, which sometimes broadcasts from there. Margaret Marshall is perhaps best known for her reasoning in the case to make gay marriage legal in Massachusetts. My photo of her friendly wave did not come out.

The ornate clock suddenly appeared on Washington Street. I don’t recall seeing it in all the years I took walks in that neighborhood.

The 5-lb coffee bag will get us through any kind of WinterSpring.

Finally, I include a couple indoor shots of my living room in a welcome shower of sunlight and a couple pictures of grandchildren managing just fine in WinterSpring.

Caroline is fine and let me know what flavor you want there is vanilla, chocolate, coffee, pineapple, and I expect your response many thanks Caroline

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And speaking of fairyland … would a map help?

You can view “Maps from Fiction” in the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Map Center through October 25 — including a map of Fairyland, a map of Oz, and a map showing both Wild Island and the Island of Tangerina.

Mark Feeney writes at the Boston Globe, “Whether the places are real or imaginary, every map is itself a kind of fiction. Those lines and color shadings and cross-hatchings and numerals and words are as ‘real’ as the sentences in a novel or characters in a cartoon are.

“The London and southern England found in Holling C. Holling’s ‘Sherlock Holmes Mystery Map’ are as real as an order of fish and chips, but the events recorded on it aren’t. … The 100-Acre Wood of the Winnie-the-Pooh books are more familiar to some than their own backyards, in no small part thanks to the enchanting watercolors Ernest H. Shepard drew on its maps. What places are more vivid in the minds of readers than Midde-earth, Oz, Narnia, Neverland, H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, or George R.R. Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ lands?”

Feeney’s article also muses about a Harvard exhibition of historical maps called “Finding Our Way: An Exploration of Human Navigation.” More here.

Illustration: Ruth Chrisman Gannett
Map from the storybook
My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett.

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