If you’ve ever looked at all at the history of maps and map-making, you quite quickly discover that early maps were often less about providing directions from A to B, and more about contextualising humanity’s place in the universe; a way, like stories, of explaining the world. Whether it’s dot-paintings of the Milky Way by Indigenous artists, or Jerusalem-centric, upside-down maps by 15th Century Venetian monks, we’ve spent a great deal of history trying to understand who we are through map-making.
As a user experience designer, remembering that need to understand is something it’s worth harking back to often. After all, when solving the complex problems that come with design thinking of any kind, knowing that your ultimate goal is to aid people in their understanding and finding their way through their day is a valuable point to keep in mind.
With all this in mind, I was privileged yesterday to be a part of a small, private, tour of the brand-new Mapping our World exhibition at the National Library of Australia. If justice is done, it’s sure to become a blockbuster, as it features more than 100 amazing examples of maps and associated ephemera from some of the world’s finest collections. It’s a visually beautiful, and beautifully curated exhibition that the Library is justifiably proud of. I cannot recommend it highly enough (and I’m going back tomorrow). And it’s free to visit!
The centerpiece of the exhibition is Fra Mauro’s magnificent, richly-annotated 15th Century map of the known world, on loan to the NLA from the Sale Monumenti in Venice. The video above shows the map’s delicate journey from its home to it’s current resting place at the Library.
Thanks to Liam Wyatt of the National Library of Australia for the invitation to visit.