Seminar Overview

Seminar Description

Participants in Reading Material Maps will attend three-hour morning sessions three to four days per week. Assigned readings will set the context for each day’s discussion.  On many days, our readings of original Newberry cartographic resources will take the form of extended hands-on workshop sessions designed to facilitate application of the ideas discussed in the seminar sessions to classroom activities.  One full day per week and most afternoons will be free for independent research, culminating in the presentation this research on the final two days of the seminar.  Other special events include all-day field trips (to the South Shore of Lake Michigan and west suburban DuPage County) and a mapping activity at a local park (pictured below).

2005 Seminar participants work together on a mapping activity in Bughouse Square.

Seminar Outline

Part 1: On Mapping, History, and Culture. The first week of the seminar is designed to provide participants with an introduction to the conduct and major themes of the seminar, to the Newberry’s map collection, and to current themes in map scholarship and interpretation. We will overview both the history of map printing and the significance of the advent of the digital age to map reading and scholarship.  The week will conclude with Dr. Nekola’s discussion of multicultural and cross-cultural approaches to map history (“Mapping across Cultures”). We will also hold special workshop session devoted to group readings of Newberry maps from different cultural traditions.

Part 2: Mapping, Shaping, and Reading the Landscape. The second part of the seminar will focus on the various ways in which historic map documents animate the reading of landscape, past and present.  Dr. Nekola will lead an all-day field trip, titled “Seeing and Interpreting the South Shore of Lake Michigan.” The excursion will consider how environmental conditions, industrial development, residential development, deindustrialization, preservation, and ecological restoration efforts have interpreted this unique lakeshore through maps over the past two centuries, helping shape it in the process.  Dr. Nekola will also introduce participants to maps drawn to aid the quickly-developing natural and social sciences since the mid-nineteenth century.  The week will conclude with Dr. Akerman’s review and discussion of the mapping of local conditions in rural and urban contexts, considering how the maps generated by commercial cartographers and local authorities reflect and reinforce embedded notions of landscape and society. The following Monday, the second full-day field trip, led by Dr. Akerman, will explore west suburban DuPage County, utilizing maps to trace the transformation of this formerly rural county into an integrated part of a modern metropolis.

Part 3: Mapping World Views and Histories. The third series of seminar considers how mapping promotes and guides visualization of the world and its history. Dr. Akerman will invite participants to examine the major ways in which physical mapping envisions the entire earth.  An extended workshop session will encourage group interpretation of examples of globes, maps, and atlases selected from the Newberry’s collections. Dr. Nekola will then discuss the interpretive and didactic possibilities of an often-overlooked cartographic genre, the historical atlas, considering in particular the political contexts of history instruction visible in its changing form. The session will be followed by an extended workshop sessions featuring group work with the Newberry’s extensive collection of historical atlases.  A session led by Dr. Akerman will consider how maps have been contributed to the literary and artistic imagination. This discussion will range widely over the historic relationship between art and map design, contemporary art’s fascination with cartography, and the deployment of maps in travel and fantasy literature.

Part 4: Material and Digital Cartographies. We will begin the final week of the seminar with an extended workshop and discussion of the Newberry’s web resource, Mapping Movement in American History and Culture. We will ask each seminar participant to choose and read one of the interpretive essays in the resource.  The final two seminar sessions speculate on two cartographic genres that invite comparisons across their digital and print formats. Dr. Akerman will examine the use of persuasive cartography and its adaptation to digital distribution.  In the final session (“Overlays”), Nekola considers the resonance and distinctions between mapping distributions of social and environmental phenomena and modern Geographic Information Systems (GIS), guided by readings by Zephyr Frank, Craig McClain, and the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). The final two days of the seminar will be devoted to presentations by the participating summer scholars of the progress and results of their research projects.

Individual Research Projects.  Summer programs at the Newberry offer visiting teachers superb opportunities to renew and develop scholarly interests and skills at a premier research library. Accordingly, each participant will be expected to pursue a research project during the seminar. The projects may be continuations of work already begun and need not be completed during the seminar. However, we will ask each participant to prepare a brief report, including a bibliography. Projects may contribute to the development of new courses, course materials, teaching websites, or lesson plans; or they may contribute more generally to the participant’s teaching through scholarly development or through the development of new materials and resources. Use of Newberry Library items in their research will be expected, but we will also encourage participants to use online resources. The creation of websites resulting from individual research projects will also be encouraged.

Past K-12 educators who participated in a Newberry seminar have developed exciting and innovative research on a number of topics, including:  the history of water rights in the West; the ill-fated Franklin Arctic expedition of 1845-48; and a teaching unit on the cultural and geological history of Chicago’s lakefront.

Participants will be given special privileges during the seminar, including a reserved space in the reading rooms, extended reading hours, and the ability to reserve items during their stay. The participants’ research will be facilitated by access to a full range of computing services. They will have wireless Internet access from workstations and printers in the library. The Newberry allows the use of personal digital cameras to photograph library materials for research and teaching purposes.

For more information on the seminar, please consult the 2018 syllabus:

SYLLABUS Reading Material Maps in the Digital Age REVISED

For a description of past NEH Seminars, see the NEH Summer Programs page.