Friday, August 6, 2010

A Maps Lecture by Margaret Pritchard

Thomas Conder, Map of the Interior Travels Through America
London, c. 1789

Margaret Pritchard made the journey from Williamsburg, VA to deliver an incredibly insightful presentation and lecture for The American Decorative Arts Forum at San Francisco’s De Young Museum. The Arader Galleries San Francisco team was in attendance and hosted Margaret for a private reception in the San Francisco Gallery. Margaret received a bachelor’s degree from Hollins College. After working with Winterthur’s needlework collection for a year, she received a fellowship at Colonial Williamsburg to assist with the refurnishing of the Governor’s Palace.Margaret subsequently became the curator of Colonial Williamsburg’s collections of prints, maps and wallpaper. Her responsibilities include acquisition of new objects for the collections and research in the medium of paper. She selects appropriate prints, maps, and wallpaper to hang on the walls of buildings in the historic district, such as the Brush-Everard House, the George Wythe House and the recently recreated Richard Charlton Coffeehouse. Margaret Prichard’s publications include William Byrd II and His Lost History: Engravings of the Americaswith Virginia Sites (1993); Empire’s Nature: Mark Catesby’s New World Vision with Amy Meyers (1998); andDegrees of Latitude: Mapping Colonial America with Henry Taliaferro (2002). She combined her study of geography with living nature for “A Protracted View: The Relationship between Mapmakers and Naturalists in Recording the Land,” her contribution to Curious in our Way: The Culture of Nature in Philadelphia, 1740-1840 (2009).

Margaret’s lecture focused on maps in the 17th and 18th centuries and their importance for documenting new discoveries and promoting settlement in the New World. These documents — created by empirical observation and scientific equipment — authoritatively documented claims of boundaries between colonies and empires. Land titles and rents, and trade — aided by nautical atlases, hung in the balance. As the struggle between France and Britain for control of North America intensified in the 18th century, the need for reliable maps for military use also increased.

Maps also embodied intellectual attainment and social aspiration. Prominently displayed maps, charts, atlases and globes became status symbols for the enlightened, genteel 18th century gentleman whose library might well have included works on commerce, navigation, geography, mathematics, physics, natural history and travel. Maps were ordinarily displayed in the hall (not today’s passageway but the name for the primary room for welcoming guests to the home) or dining room, literally and figuratively demonstrating the host’s expanded world view to guests.

Margaret explained the role of maps as powerful visual symbols during the 17th and 18th centuries. They were useful devices for mapmakers and colonial expansionists to convey a host of attitudes and values. She dissected the meaning behind many of the elements in the maps’ cartouches, adding engaging insight into these stunning antique maps. Examples of many of the maps discussed can be found in the Arader Galleries collection. See our section on Maps on the home page of our website (

1 comment:

meyerprints said...