The Library of Congress is a stunning piece of DC architecture.
May 17, 2019 at 12:30 PM in Explore
Located on every Discovery Map within a little red frame is the following: "This map is catalogued in the Library of Congress, Harvard Map Collection & American Geographical Society Library for Historical Reference." Have you ever noticed that? If so, have you ever thought about what that means?
Well, Map Geek wanted to find out and in this post I’ll share with you some of what I discovered. (I’ll save talking about the Harvard Map Collection & American Geographical Society Library for Historical Reference for another time.)
First off, do you know what the Library of Congress is? Here’s a message from Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress:
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.
The Library preserves and provides access to a rich, diverse and enduring source of knowledge to inform, inspire and engage you in your intellectual and creative endeavors. Whether you are new to the Library of Congress or an experienced researcher, we have a world-class staff ready to assist you online and in person.
Pretty impressive, huh? The building in which all of these published works are housed leaves you in awe as well. And to think that at least 130 of our Discovery Maps make up a teeny tiny part of this collection is pretty cool. I asked Peter Hans, the driving force behind Discovery Map International, about how that works and here’s what he had to say: “We submit the full portfolio of printed maps to the Library of Congress each year. They then file them away for reference.” I think Pete should go there some day and ask to see the one for Carefree, Cave Creek and North Scottsdale (his sister Margie’s map), for example, and relish in admiring it from within the halls of this great institution. What a photo opp! “Maybe someday some adventurer will use a Discovery Map to find a treasure like Nicholas Cage did in “National Treasure,” Peter adds.
Or, you could go and ask to see one yourself or any number of other maps from all over the world. The Geography and Map Division (G & M) of the Library of Congress has custody of the largest and most comprehensive cartographic collection in the world. Their collections include over 5 million maps, 100,000 atlases, 8,000 reference works, over 5000 globes and globe gores, 3,000 raised relief models, over 130,000 microfiche/film and a large number of cartographic materials in other formats. Wow – take your pick. And your pic!
Do you know what a globe gore is, by the way? It’s a section of the curved surface of a globe. You rarely see just one section rather all of the sections of a globe are presented and flattened out into a plane surface, creating a sort of picture, if you will.
In addition to viewing maps and other pieces from the cartographic collection of the Library of Congress, you can attend programs that feature certain works from the library. One recent program, entitled Mapping a Growing Nation: From Independence to Statehood, showcased Abel Buell’s New and Correct Map of the United States of North America, the first map of the newly-independent United States compiled, printed, and published in America by an American. This important early American map is known to exist in only seven copies. Philanthropist David M. Rubenstein generously placed his copy of the map at the Library. Dude! Imagine the stories that can be told around this map. Quite a few clearly, since the presentation about this rarity is a full-day program.
Summer is a great time to visit our nation’s capital, especially when you can go inside beautiful air-conditioned interiors to beat the sometimes oppressive heat of Washington, DC. Map Geek suggests you plan a trip there and carve out at least a half day to take a gander at the Library of Congress map collection. (Plan a full day if you’re a map geek like me and also if you want to see other treasures such as books and manuscripts from the Library’s collection.)
Click here to find out the details about visits and also be sure to check out the events and programs being offered at that time as well. Know that there are even eateries at the Library of Congress, so go ahead and plan a whole day. They also have a variety of guided tours, shopping and concerts–it sounds like a curious traveler’s dream come true.
Wishing you many happy discoveries!
One more thing: If you can’t make it to Washington DC, go to your local library. You’ll be amazed at the quantity of maps and other topographical documents and instruments stored away within their drawers and interiors.
Next time Map Geek will explore the extraordinary online offerings of the Library of Congress. Photos courtesy Library of Congress and ymgerman.