Where to See Antique Maps in Washington, DC Area
(and around the world)

The Washington Map Society receives numerous inquiries as to where visitors can go to see maps when they are visiting Washington. Of course there are always the short exhibitions, and we will try to post them onto this page as they occur. On a more permanent basis, the following locations contain some of the antique map treasures in the Washington DC area:

The Geography and Map (G&M) Division Reading Room, Library of Congress. 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC. They can pull any maps you ask to see. They have over four million. There is no exhibit of maps, but come ready to ask for your favorites, or ready to do some serious research. Open 8:30am until 5pm Monday through Friday.

Exploring the Early Americas is an exhibition featuring the 1507 Waldseemüller "World Map," the first map to use the name America; and rotating items from the Jay I. Kislak Collection, which includes rare books, manuscripts, historic documents, maps and art of the Americas. Also on display is Waldseemüller's "Carta Marina" or Navigators' Chart; and the Schöner Sammelbund, a portfolio that contained two world maps and other cartographic materials. The exhibition is in the Northwest Gallery of the Jefferson Building, Library of Congress. The exhibit is free and open to the public, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The Kiplinger Research Library of the Historical Society of Washington has a large collection of maps of the city, including an extensive collection of real estate atlases that patrons can browse. 801 K Street NW at Mount Vernon Square, Washington, DC. Open: Mondays, by appointment only; Wednesdays open to the public, no appointment needed, 10AM – 4PM, Appointments can be made by contacting the library at 202.393.1420.

The Society of the Cincinnati has more than 300 18th-century maps, battle plans and atlases in its collections. The Society of the Cincinnati Library is located in the Harold Leonard Stuart Gallery on the lower floor of the Society's headquarters, Anderson House, 2118 Massachusetts Avenue NW. The library is open for research on weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Readers are required to register and show photo identification in order to access the collection. For appointments and further information about the library, please call (202) 785-2040, extension 411.

Currently scheduled events/short exhibitions include:

March 26, 2011 – January 1, 2013 – Williamsburg More than Meets the Eye: Maps and Prints of Early America is at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, 326 West Francis Street. The exhibition features 35 maps, portraits, and other graphic images that invite the viewer to look more deeply into the subtle messages delivered by artisans depicting America. In addition to objects from the Colonial Williamsburg collections, the exhibition includes an outstanding documentary source for the 1920s restoration of the historic town—the “Frenchman’s” map, loaned by the College of William and Mary. The Connecticut Historical Society has also kindly agreed to loan their copy of Abel Buell’s "A New and correct Map of the United States of America,” the first map of the thirteen states to be published after the Congress of the Confederation ratified the treaty on January 14, 1784.

November 12, 2012 - June 1, 2013 – Washington
The Library of Congress exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War will feature more than 200 unique items that reveal the complexity of the Civil War through those who experienced it first-hand. Through diaries, letters, maps, song sheets, newspapers and broadsides, photographs, drawings and unusual artifacts, the exhibition will chronicle the sacrifices and accomplishments of those—from both the North and South—whose lives were lost or affected by the events of 1861-1865. Many of the exhibition items have never before been on public view.
The Civil War in America will be free and open to the public, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, from Nov. 12, 2012, to June 1, 2013, in the Southwest Exhibition Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E.

November 2012 - May 2013 – Washington
The Historical Society of Washington is delighted to present a new exhibit, Window to Washington, featuring the Kiplinger Collection, the most important donation in the organization’s 188-year history. The exhibit explores the development of our nation’s capital, from a sleepy southern town into a modern metropolis, as told through the works of artists who witnessed the city’s changes. The exhibit is currently planned for a six-month run at the Society's Kiplinger Library on the second floor of the historic Carnegie Library building in Mt. Vernon Square, 801 K Street, NW - the District’s original, never segregated Central Library - directly across from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The exhibition draws from the strengths of the Kiplinger Collection in early maps and birds-eye views, 19th and 20th century prints, mid-20th century oil paintings, watercolors, and photographs. Upon entering the exhibition one first sees a print of the first published version of Pierre L’Enfant’s famous 1791 map depicting the gifted French architect and urban planner’s vision for a capital city worthy of comparison with those of great European nations. Open Mondays and Wednesday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m and Thursdays 10 a.m. To 6 p.m. Appointments for group tours can be made by contacting the library.

December 10, 2012 - February 24, 2013 – Washington
The American Civil War is one of the defining events in American history. To commemorate its 150th anniversary, the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library created the exhibition Torn in Two: the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. This multimedia display takes a geographic and cartographic approach to exploring and illuminating the causes of the conflict, the conduct of the war and how the war was remembered in later years. A reduced traveling version of the exhibition can be seen at Ford’s Theater, Center for Education and Leadership, 514 10th Street NW, where it will showcase 40 historic maps and related graphics (including, manuscript letters, political cartoons, music and press of the period). A fully illustrated, 152-page exhibition catalog is available for US $35.00; for information about purchasing a copy, send inquiries to maps@bpl.org.

January 18, 2013 – July 20, 2013 – Washington
The French artist and engineer Pierre L'Enfant (1754-1825) made vital
contributions to the early formation of the American nation and American identity. As a foreign volunteer in the Continental Army and, later, as a citizen of the new nation, L'Enfant created imagery that helped define the new American republic. During the Revolutionary War, L'Enfant's artistic talent caught the attention of General Steuben, who commissioned him to draw the illustrations for Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, the first official manual of the Continental Army. The Frenchman was appointed captain in the Continental Army Corps of Engineers and participated in the southern campaign, where he was wounded at the battle of Savannah and taken prisoner at Charleston. At the close of the war, L'Enfant became an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati and created three emblems of membership for the organization that became artistic expressions of the achievement of American independence. Remaining in America after the war, L'Enfant designed monuments, buildings, parades, and other patriotic events celebrating the new nation. His work culminated in the 1791 plan for Washington, D.C., a grand vision that would guide development of the American capital for the next century and beyond. Pierre L'Enfant's Vision for the American Republic can be seen at Anderson House, 2118 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.

February 21, 2013 - April 26, 2013 – Annapolis An exhibition titled Envisioning the World: The First Printed Maps, 1472-1700 can be seen at Elizabeth Myers Mitchell Gallery, St. Johns College, 60 College Avenue, Mellon Hall. The exhibition will feature approximately 30 rare world maps drawn from the collection of Henry Wendt, and will explore the major trends in intellectual history from the early Renaissance through the scientific era of the Enlightenment. Through the language of cartography, the maps in the exhibition illustrate the way in which scientists, mathematicians, explorers and cartographers came to grips with the shape, size and nature of the Earth as a whole and its place in the universe. Highlighted in the exhibition are the important contributions to this evolving cosmography of: Ptolemy (c. 90-168 ); Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543); Galileo Galilei (1564-1642); Johannes Kepler (1571-1630); and Edmond Halley (1656-1742). Works featured in the exhibition include: the first printed map (1472), a schematic concept of the continents in the form of a "T" encircled by an "O" of ocean; the first printed road map (1598), showing the cursus publicus, the postal system of the Roman Empire, in eight sections totaling 14 linear feet; highly decorative exemplars from the golden age of Dutch mapmaking (17th century); and elaborate hand-colored celestial views (1700), representing the constellations with figures from Greek mythology.

May 17-18, 2013 – Washington The Philip Lee Phillips Society’s annual conference will be held at the Library of Congress. Additional information to come.

Map Exhibitions and Map Meetings around the world: As you travel, first visit www.docktor.com - it is a great source of information concerning coming cartographic events and also ongoing map exhibitions worldwide. It is maintained by one of our members.