Clip ‘N’ Save: Harvard’s Map Collection

Maps of Pusey Library
Anna M Frappaolo

We hear cartographic-chic is in. Hanging an 18th century map of the Americas, complete with decorative cartouches, on your barren white wall might be just what you need to showcase both your intellectual and artistic sides.

Tucked away in the basement of Lamont in Pusey Library, the Harvard Map Collection houses more than 500,000 maps. For the past six years, the collection has offered to print oversized colored, copies for Harvard affiliates.

You can browse through the collection in Hollis and choose the one most suitable for your tastes. All that’s left to do is to visit the collection, set up an account, and pay using Crimson Cash. In addition, you will need to sign the Map Collection Scanning Services Agreement, which can be found on the collection’s website.

For a grand total of two dollars per square foot, you can own an abstract imitation of the world around you. For an extra 10 bucks, the library can print it on glossy paper. Turnaround time averages a couple of days.

“It’s definitely cheaper than Kinko’s,” joked Jonathan M. Rosenwasser, the collection management assistant.

Options range from colonial representations of Boston, to more modern varieties. These topographical masterpieces can be seen as more than just representations of terrains and political boundaries. Students can use them to gain a sense of how people viewed the world, Rosenwasser said.

Uninhibited by geological accuracy, older maps usually feature ornamental images to promote the cartographer’s agenda, such as showcasing sights and images associated with a given country.

Or, there might be another phenomenon at play. “Cartographers used the decorative elements to fill in the empty space of places that hadn’t been explored yet,” Rosenwasser explained.

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