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More than a Metaphor: Maps of Mammoth Cave

This is a guest post by Kelly Bilz, Librarian-in-Residence in the Geography and Map Division. Beneath the surface of west-central Kentucky winds a complex system of rivers and grottos known as Mammoth Cave. Named “mammoth” for its size, the cave doesn’t have much to do with the creature—although mammoths and mastodons did live in Kentucky near Big […]

Mesoamerican Artifacts from the Jay I. Kislak Collection Now Online

The Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas contains important archaeological artifacts, rare books, manuscripts, maps, and graphic works of art, which survey the earliest history of the lands that would become known as the Americas. In 2004 Jay I. Kislak, a businessman, philanthropist, military aviator, and collector, donated […]

“Eastern Branch of the Potomac River” or “Anacostia River”? A Cartographic Curiosity…

One of the joys involved in answering reference questions submitted to the Geography and Map Division is that some questions (the fun ones!) frequently involve extensive research in the Library’s cartographic holdings. Staff of the Geography and Map Division are also fortunate to be able to consult photocopies of maps from other institutions, early photographs […]

That’s Just Hysterical: The Lindgren Brothers’ Tourist Maps

This is a guest post by Kelly Bilz, Librarian-in-Residence in the Geography and Map Division. If you’re buying a souvenir map, would you rather it be “historical,” or “hysterical”? The Lindgren Brothers aimed for the latter in their set of maps of American landmarks. With their distinct style—a yellow background, a blue (or sometimes red) border, and […]

A Place for Drying Fish Nets

  By the 1890s the eyes of the western imperial powers were turning eastwards, especially towards Manchuria. Why had Manchuria become such a hot property? As any real estate agent will say, it’s “location, location, and location.” For Russia, its imperial gaze followed the ambitions of Tsar Nicholas II and Finance Minister Sergei Witte, who […]

GIS Day on November 18th: Mapping the Pandemic

You are invited to join the Library of Congress in celebrating GIS Day on Wednesday, November 18th from 1-4pm EST, with an afternoon of engaging talks and discussions on the theme of “Mapping the Pandemic Cases, Traces, and Mutations.” This presentation will premiere with closed captions on both the Library’s YouTube site and on the Library […]

Verba Incognita: A Guide to Deciphering Latin on Maps

This is a guest post by Kelly Bilz, Librarian-in-Residence in the Geography and Map Division. Even though Latin had fallen out of vernacular use after the fall of Rome (and began to evolve into the modern Romance languages), it lived on in its written form, becoming the lingua franca, so to speak, of scholarship. In […]

The Exotic Animals of the Americas

European colonists were fascinated with the wildlife of the Western Hemisphere. They described fauna native to the Americas in memoirs, travel journals and poetry. Pictures of the unfamiliar animals were often printed on maps. In this post I will discuss four colonial era maps that were decorated with illustrations of animals. The two maps of […]