Press Room


by awilliams

Featuring the first map of the Pacific Ocean floor and first immigrant map of an American city.

FacebookWomen in Cartography: Five Centuries of Accomplishments, documenting the transitioning role of women in cartography over the past 500 years, opens Saturday, October 31, at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square. The exhibit features 40 maps, globes, atlases and works of art from the 17th century to the present made by women, and charts the evolution of their role in cartography from engravers in the 16th century to designers and creators in the present day. The exhibition is curated by Alice Hudson, retired Chief of the Map Division at the New York Public Library, and co-curated by Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Assistant Curator of Maps, Stephanie Cyr.

“The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center manages our world class collection of distinguished maps, and the Women in Cartography exhibit gives us a unique lens to view part of the history of maps. This exhibit illustrates precisely why the Library has such holdings and how best to place objects on display for the public to engage with, enjoy, and reflect on,” said David Leonard, Interim President of the Boston Public Library.

Women in Cartography reveals the transition of women in professional cartography from their marginalized history to their current role as map makers,” said curator Alice Hudson. “It reveals the powerful contribution and creativity of women in all areas of the cartographic profession.”

Histories of map-making generally emphasize the role of men; however, since the advent of the printed map, women have worked as colorists, engravers, shop owners, publishers, and most importantly, as map-makers themselves.  Women are active in all aspects of cartography today, and are leaders in the world of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and digital mapping.

Exhibit visitors will view 17th and 18th century maps published, engraved, and designed by women; 19th century atlases and globes; 20th century colorful and lively pictorial maps promoting regional tourism; as well as examples of present day digital and GIS maps.

Exhibit highlights include the first map of the Pacific Ocean floor, created by Marie Tharp, a cartographer and geologist working at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and a late 19th century map showing immigrant settlement in Chicago compiled by Agnes Holbrook, a graduate of Wellesley College and a resident of Jane Addams Hull House.  This map is one of the first to depict immigration in an American city, and also foreshadows modern GIS mapping, using color and statistics to present social data.

Women in Cartography runs October 31, 2015 through March 27, 2016. The Leventhal Map Center is located in the Central Library in Copley Square, 700 Boylston Street. It is open Monday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; and Sunday: 1– 5 p.m. The best entrance to the BPL to access the exhibit is via the Dartmouth Street entrance at the McKim building, which faces Copley Square.


The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center is ranked among the top 10 map centers in the United States for the size of its collection, the significance of its historic (pre-1900) material, and its advanced digitization program. It is unique among the major collections because it also combines these features with exceptional educational and teacher training programs to advance geographic literacy among students in grades K-12 and enhance the teaching of subjects from history to mathematics to language arts. The collection is also the second largest in the country located in a public library, ensuring unlimited access to these invaluable resources for scholars, educators, and the general public. The Leventhal Map Center, created in 2004, is a nonprofit organization established as a public-private partnership between the Boston Public Library and philanthropist Norman Leventhal. Its mission is to use the Boston Public Library’s permanent collection of 200,000 maps and 5,000 atlases and a select group of rare maps collected by Mr. Leventhal for the enjoyment and education of all through exhibitions, educational programs, and a website that includes thousands of digitized maps at The map collection is global in scope, dating from the 15th century to the present, with a particular strength in maps and atlases of Boston, Massachusetts, and New England.


Boston Public Library has a Central Library, twenty-four branches, map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit

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