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440 Years Old And Filled With Footprints, These Aren't Your Everyday Maps

"At the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, 19 maps, nearly 440 years old, are on display — and they look spectacular. 'Works on paper are delicate so we're only allowed to put them on display for nine months out of 10 years,' says Blanton Museum communications director Carlotta Stankiewicz."

"The Mapping Memory exhibition contains work by indigenous mapmakers from the late 1500s. The maps demonstrate a very different sense of space than maps drawn by Europeans. They're not drawn to scale; instead, they're deeply utilitarian."

"A map of Culhuacán, for example, shows rivers running straight, with tiny arrows in the middle, indicating which way they flow. The pathways curve like snakes, with footprints or hoofprints indicating whether the paths can be walked or ridden.

"This was the first museum in the country to have a dedicated curator to Latin American art," says Simone Wicha, director of the Blanton Museum of Art. The University of Texas at Austin has one of the earliest and largest collections of Mexican and Latin American art and documents in the world — more than 300,000 pieces — which it began acquiring in earnest in 1921. 'The interest in Latin America was longstanding because Texas history is Mexican history and vice versa,' Wicha says."

"In 1577, King Philip II of Spain wanted to know whom exactly he was ruling and where in his vast kingdom they were. His viceroy in what was then called New Spain had little idea, so he asked the indigenous groups in what is now Mexico, to draw the maps — which are now on view."


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