Thursday, February 7, 2008

26 Hours at the Festival of Maps (part 2)

This took longer to get back to than I had hoped. Work and vacation... the usual excuses. So, where was I?


We got up bright and early the next morning and headed down to Hyde Park. Tom and I stopped in to visit the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, a client (check out their new floor plan) and distributor of Hedberg Maps' Hyde Park map. Always a pleasure, and I picked up my copy of the accompanying book to the Field Museum show (see previous entry). Then across the street to the Oriental Institute for their show "European Cartographers and the Ottoman World 1500-1750."

First off, very nicely put-together show. Given the seemingly limited subject, they had a wide range of materials, nicely spaced and lit. It was a small show, two mid-sized rooms basically, but that was about right. I thought the highlight was an early 19th-century surveyed map of of Constantinople ("Plan de la ville de Constantinople et ses Faubourgs tant en Europe qu'en Asie levé géometriquement en 1776"). I know this was not the focus of the show, but what this map really brought home is how dependent the quality of hachure lines is upon the physical techniques: you can't get that kind of delicate line in offset printing. You can't even really get it with lithography. You just can't. You need engraving to achieve the kind of spidery but defiite line these 200-year-old maps posses. Just as you can't get the sheer physicality of a wood-block print (there were a few masterful examples of this technology too) any other way than by using relief print.

The show has several themes. One shows the movement of Ptolemy's Geography as a text from the Ottoman empire into Europe, its movement as a mapping source and technique back to the Ottomans, and the gradual superseding of Ptolemy by later explorations by both the west and east. A second section shows a variety of portolan charts, both Ottoman and European. Lovely things. Finally, there is a section showing the developement of city plans and maps from descriptive but non-scalar views through more scientific studies (my highlight was one of the latter).

We moved on to the Regenstein Library a couple blocks away for their show, "The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome: Printing and Collecting the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae." I'm afraid this one was a let-down: I thought there would be more about plans and aerieal views of Rome, but it was mostly about the vagaries of printing souvenir views of Rome 500 years ago. Now I'm a sucker for printing history, but I found this, well, dull. Sorry. Luckily it was a quick diversion, unlike our next trek.

We drove out to the Brookfield Zoo to the west, for a promised show of "zoo maps." I was picturing a sample of maps of zoos around the world over time. You know, even a well-selected selection of, say, twenty or so would have been interesting. Instead we got what I suspect were reproductions of a half-dozen iterations of the Brookfield Zoo map, on two placards in the lobby of the Discovery Center, along with some pretty perfunctory text. Mildly diverting, but quite a let-down. I felt like I'd been oversold.

So back into the Loop. After a quick visit with Dennis McClendon of Chicago CartoGraphics, we hopped around the corner to the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Their show "Map This!" was a series of screened wall graphics surrounding the lecture hall/meeting room. A variety of students each tackle a theme about Chicago. It was perfectly all right, brought some interesting aspects of the city to bear, but nothing earth-shattering.

Taking our leave of Dennis, we made our way to the Chicago Cultural Center, for their show "HereThereEverywhere," the only art show we got to see, and the second highlight of the trip.

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