Mapping Africa: Myths and Realities

Mapping Africa: Myths and Realities, on display in Lamson Library and Learning Commons from February 1 – March 31, features fourteen antique maps from the collection of Dr. Richard A. Lobban, Jr.  The maps, covering the period from 1535 to 1897, illustrate European consciousness of Africa, ranging from accuracy to fantasy.

Please join Dr. Lobban in Lamson Library room 124 for a discussion of the collection on March 5th at 3:30pm. Refreshments will be served.

Maps are a window into the consciousness of the age, and demonstrate the prevailing wisdom, ranging from accuracy to fantasy.  Arranged chronologically, these maps follow the discoveries over the centuries that erased our ignorance and replaced fictional depictions of Africa with accurate information.  Many topics can be explored through these maps: history, culture, technology and exploration. Themes to look for in this exhibit include:

The evolution of the ways in which Africa is described. Africa was described from the outside looking in by Europeans who were mostly interested in maritime navigation and coastal trade. Africans met Europeans on the coast as trading partners until the rise of colonialism in the late 1800s. Notice the changes in nomenclature from the pre-colonial to the colonial period.

Improvements and standardization of mapping conventions. Today we take for granted that maps will include scale information and that longitude will be measured from Greenwich, England, but this was not always the case. The exhibit traces the changing reference points in longitude and latitude and the various ways in which scales were expressed (if at all).

Development of different printing methods. As the history of book printing evolved from Gutenberg, map making followed the same path, from woodcuts to copper plates to lithography. Most of the exhibit’s maps are made from copper engravings and include hand-painted watercolors.

A preview of the exhibit can be found at

This exhibit is curated by Christin Chenard, please contact Christin at <!chchenard@plymouth.edu> with additional questions.

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