A Journey Through Maps

The National Library building in Edinburgh is always worth a visit.  Whether you want to browse the books, visit the latest exhibitions, or enjoy the café just inside the main doors there is something for everyone.  I went down today to visit the exhibition that has been garnering a lot of interest in the Library – ‘You Are Here – A journey through maps’.  

“We all use maps, whether it be on your phone, or sat nav” Bryan Christie of the Library told me, “but it’s how we interpret them, and we want people to think more deeply about them”.  Certainly a lot of visitors are taking him up on this statement, judging by the final map in the exhibition, which is a map of Edinburgh taking up a full wall space and visitors have been asked to pin a label with a note into the favourite area of Edinburgh.  The map has been completely obliterated by enthusiastic visitors from all over the world highlighting their favourite location, with comments ranging from  stating “My grannies house” or pinpointing the local Zizzis restaurant.  “We’ve had to sweep the map twice and start again as its such a popular feature” Bryan confirmed to me.

Unsurprisingly in an exhibition about maps you get to see plenty of maps.  The National library boast they have the largest collection of maps at their dispersal in the world, with some 200,000 to choose to display.  The exhibition starts small and grows chronologically, with maps of the library, then Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, Europe and then finally the world.  Highlights include the forerunner to the sat nav, with a similarly shaped device from the 1930’s which has a scrolling map which you manually move as you are travelling; The oldest recorded map of Scotland originating nearly 500 years ago (and drawn by a man who had never set foot on the land); An Australian map drawn upside down so the Aussies, tired of being referred to as ‘down under’ appear at the top of the illustration.

It may sound a dry subject to investigate but if you want to hide from the Edinburgh weather for an hour for free it certainly is very highly recommended.

Steve Heald – Writing is my passion – Contact me if you would like me to review your local Edinburgh event.

YOU ARE HERE – A Journey through maps, is running now at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, free admission.