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News : Art Apr 16, 2009 - 2:59 AM

Mystic Seaport to explore early maritime navigation in historic map exhibit

By Mystic Seaport

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Interactive Map Spot also to Open

Maris Pacifici by Abraham Ortelius
"Mapping the Pacific Coast: Coronado to Lewis and Clark, The Quivira Collection," an exhibition of rare and historic maps dating from 1544 to 1802, will open May 2 at Mystic Seaport.

On loan from the private collection of Henry and Holly Wendt of Washington, the traveling exhibit features more than 30 historic maps, illustrations and books. The exhibit takes viewers along a chronological journey, beginning with the collection’s oldest map – a rare 1544 woodcut by Sebastian Munster – and ending with Thomas Jefferson’s decision to commission the Corps of Discovery.

“Mystic Seaport is extremely grateful to Mr. Wendt for allowing the Museum to act as a host venue of this historic collection,” said Jonathan Shay, director of exhibitions at Mystic Seaport. “The maps perfectly complement the Museum’s existing efforts to educate visitors on early maritime navigation.”

Once highly prized and jealously guarded by European rulers, the maps illustrate the 16th- and 17th-century quest to find lucrative trade routes and claim new territories. Individually, they are works of art, featuring ornate cartouches and borders, imaginative drawings of sea serpents and ships and detailed observations about coastlines and rivers – some accurate and some not. Together, they trace the evolution of European understanding about the geography and orientation of North America’s Pacific Coast. Varying mistakes and fantasies – such as the initial belief that California was an island – are also depicted in the collection.

A free audio guide will be available, allowing visitors to hear collector Henry Wendt discuss the story behind each map and illustration. An exhibit catalog featuring full-color plates of the Wendt maps will also be available for purchase.

A selection of navigational instruments and other artifacts from the Museum’s collection will also be on display. These will include an American-made backstaff from 1762, a chronometer used aboard the Charles W. Morgan, and a scale model of Endeavour, one of the ships sailed by Captain Cook. Visitors can then continue their navigational quest in the Museum’s Nautical Instruments Shop and in the Treworgy Planetarium’s 19th-century celestial navigation exhibit.

Mystic Seaport will additionally open "Map Spot: Exploring the World of Maps" adjacent to "Mapping the Pacific Coast," providing a hands-on experience for visitors of all ages that boosts map literacy and appreciation for maps as tools for exploring, recording and imagining the world. Designed to help visitors understand maps and how to use them, this family-friendly, interactive exhibit provides opportunities for collaborative learning and play.

Adults and children will be encouraged to use and make maps and maritime charts at different activity stations, while large-scale wall graphics challenge aspiring cartographers’ visions of the world.

The "Map Spot" complies with Connecticut state education frameworks for social studies and provides elements for Boy Scout/Girl Scout badge requirements.

"Mapping the Pacific Coast: Coronado to Lewis and Clark" will remain open in the Mallory Exhibit Hall during regular Museum hours through January 2010. The "Map Spot" will remain open through October 2010. Entrance to both is included in Museum admission. For more information, visit www.mysticseaport.org/mappingthepacific.

Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum. Founded in 1929, the Museum is home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world. The Museum is located one mile south of exit 90 off I-95 in Mystic, CT, and is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Children 5 and under are always admitted for free. Admission to the Museum is good for two consecutive days with ticket validation. For more information, visit www.mysticseaport.org or call 888.973.2767.

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