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New Map Exhibit in West Sibley Hall

The Department of City and Regional Planning and the Cornell University Library Map Collection are sponsoring the exhibit Land Use, Transit, and Urban Redevelopment Illustrated (1933-1972): A Walk through Twentieth Century Maps from Cornell’s Map Collection.

The exhibit is on display at the first floor of West Sibley Hall from December 1 – December 15, 2013. It will also be shown in early 2014 in the map display cases on the Lower Level of Olin Library.

The exhibit highlights how maps have been central to the practice of planning. They are tools used to inform, persuade, and regulate. As artifacts, maps provide frames of reference for understanding planning practice—past and present. They reflect empirical data gathered at particular points in time, while also illustrating methods of analysis, assumptions, and underlying values. Maps can also be viewed as works of art—for their aesthetic values and for the methods and technologies associated with particular eras of printing and cartography.

The maps in this exhibit were selected from Cornell University Library’s Map Collection for their relevance to city and regional planning. The maps depict urban areas in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and were created with varied audiences in mind:  transit users, city planners and decision makers.

Community Housing & Planning Associates. Existing Uses of Land: City of Atlantic City, New Jersey (1966). 1:500. Fort Lee, NJ: Community Housing & Planning Associates, 1966. Cornell University Library Collection.

One of the centerpieces of the exhibit is a unique 1966 land use map of Atlantic City that was donated to the Library by the co-authors, Peter Karbashian and Tom Sykes, with the help of Prof. Emer. John Reps, CRP. The map was prepared before the era of digitized block and lot mapping utilizing geographic information systems, which are presently used to create color-coded land use maps. The process was completely manual and extremely labor intensive. In addition, quantifying the individual categories of land use was also a daunting challenge, which required employing a calibrated planimeter to manually calculate the size of each lot and record its land use. The entire city was “walked” and surveyed lot by lot. 

The exhibit contributes to further strengthening the ties between the Department of CRP and CUL and aims to encourage the faculty and students of the department to experience the rich resources of the library. It is curated by Jennifer Minner, Assistant Professor and Boris Michev, Maps & Geospatial Information Librarian. Prof. Jeffrey M. Chusid provided invaluable feedback.

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