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Bruce Museum Unveils Map, Sea Charts Exhibition In February

Sebastian Münster, Marine and Land Monsters (Basel, 1552).Renaissance mapmakers always enhanced their product by adding decorative elements, making it more attractive. Münster outdid them all by cataloguing the many invented monsters he used.
Sebastian Münster, Marine and Land Monsters (Basel, 1552).Renaissance mapmakers always enhanced their product by adding decorative elements, making it more attractive. Münster outdid them all by cataloguing the many invented monsters he used. Photo Credit: Photograph by Paul Mutino

GREENWICH, Conn. -- The Bruce Museum in Greenwich will be unveiling its latest exhibition next month, and it’s not hard to find: It’s all about maps.

"(Re)Discovering the 'New World:' Maps and Sea Charts from the Age of Exploration" opens in the museum’s Lecture Gallery on Saturday, Feb. 7.

Featuring more than 30 European-made maps and sea charts inspired by New World exploration, and published between 1511 and 1757, the exhibition presents a fascinating study in geographic and human progress, as well as a feast for the eyes. Many of the woodcuts and metal plate engravings have original hand-applied color, as color printing was not yet available.

“These ancient maps represent Renaissance-period attempts by European ateliers to edify their clientele by revealing our ‘new’ hemisphere and its approaches, as discoveries and claims came ashore from those daring enough to pack their sea bags and head for the unknown,” says Jack A. Somer, who owns the collection.

Somer has organized the show at the Bruce Museum along with Anne von Stuelpnagel, the Museum’s director of exhibitions.

“More than five hundred years ago, two European empires began daringly and competitively seeking the most efficient seaborne routes to the riches of Arabia and The Orient—Spain sailing west, Portugal sailing east,” Somer says. “Mapmakers back home—nearly all landlubbers happy to sit by the fire—scrambled to gather the latest explorers’ reports so they could draw up-to-date maps and sell them to the wealthy as bound atlases.

"Keep in mind that these atlases were massive compendia that glorified leather-filled libraries and enriched cultural reputations. Maps weren’t always just an app on your iPhone.”

This exhibition opens on Feb. 7 and runs through May 31 at the Bruce Museum. The exhibition is generously supported by The Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund.

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