Historical maps of Westport provide more than directions
Published 5:57 pm, Thursday, September 23, 2010
Visitors can find the coordinates to two new exhibits on Westport's history at the Westport Historical Society (WHS). "Putting Westport on the Map" and "Zoom in on Westport" continue the society's year-long celebration of the town's 175-year anniversary.
Putting Westport on the Map offers a cartographic take on Westport's history, as it shows the evolution of the town through old and new maps. Zoom in on Westport looks at those changes from the air, on the ground, and through the eyes of local children who visit the society.
"We are often asked by visitors to our galleries where the ideas for our exhibits come from," explained Dorothy Curran, the society's president. "Truthfully, we can say that many of them happen when someone comes to WHS looking for information about their old house; they want to know when it was built and who lived in it. The many maps and other documents in our archives contain the information needed to answer their questions."
In this case, the idea for the exhibits -- an 1812 Connecticut map -- was almost wiped off the map, historically speaking. Fortunately, Carles Reedy found the map rolled up in a cardboard poster mailer that had been tossed in the trash. Intrigued, he took the map to the society to learn more. Although it was fragile and dirty, the society was able to restore it, and so it became the "star" of "Putting Westport on the Map," which is on view in the Betty and Ralph Sheffer Gallery.
The maps in the exhibit focus especially on key moments in Westport's history, such as the town's incorporation in 1835, and the later annexation of the property now known as Green's Farms.
Putting Westport on the Map also features rare antique maps of pre-Colonial America, as well as well as a map of George Washington's horseback journeys in Connecticut. In addition, the exhibit includes a video introduction of where the oldest maps were found; rare antique maps of pre-Colonial America from the Martayan, Lan, Augustyn Inc. Collection; and early American maps of the area from private local collectors. A historical collection of globes marking changes in the world's political geography over centuries, plus atlases, surveying and cartography tools used for mapping are also on display.
Zoom in on Westport features unique aerial photographs taken by Westport Now photographer Larry Untermeyer while a passenger in a Cessna 182 airplane. Chosen from a total of 290, the photos show Westport from every point on the compass.
On the ground, a "Memories of Westport" map researched by Susan Malloy and designed by Miggs Burroughs shows a 1960 Main Street when it was lined with Mom and Pop stores and further views of this area then and now, which adds another layer of information concerning the changes that have occurred in town.
WHS Director of Education Hilary Gibson, meanwhile, engages children in the wonder of maps through her map-making technique. Her trademark is a "special recipe," which starts with a visit to Mom's junk drawer, and then uses these objects and others to create a representation of something familiar, such as a map of their bedroom or classroom. See the exhibit in the Little Gallery for the results of this "hands-on" creativity.
The exhibits will be on view until Jan. 8, 2011. The opening reception on Oct. 3, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., is open to all and there is no admission charge. For more information, e-mail email@example.com