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Almost 200 rare maps of Europe and other parts of the world created between the 1500s and 1800s now belong to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
The UT McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture recently received the large gift from private donors.
Twenty of the maps are currently on display in UT’s 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 16th 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.
Most of the 191 maps are copperplate engravings with painstakingly applied hand color. They were created by mapmaking giants of the 16th to 18th 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.
Henri Grissino-Mayer, professor in the UT Department of Geography, noted that the maps will serve both the department and museum’s missions “to teach students, professors and visitors the importance of space and place in human history, that to know where things are is to know better why they are.”
The gift supplements the museum’s existing natural history print collection, which includes more than 3,000 16th- to 19th-century prints of animals, plants and exploration around the world and is one of the strongest collections of natural history prints in the region.
For more information about the McClung Museum and its collections and exhibits, visit http://mcclungmuseum.utk.edu.