The exquisite atlases under lock and key at the University of Bristol’s Special Collection Library count a human anatomical atlas from 1543, colonial charts of the Caribben Dankerts from the mid-18th century and a Cuban revolutionary atlas from the 1960s among their ranks.
Amassed during the past 60 years, they tend to come from personal libraries, strewn with annotations viewable only by scholars and researchers by special appointment. Now the public are about to be allowed in on the cartographic chase.
“Ideally, we would like for people to be able to see and touch the books,” says Dr Mark Jackson, of the institution’s School of Geographical Sciences. ”However, that isn’t always possible.
The beauty of an online exhibition is that people could virtually flick through the atlases, zooming in on points of interest in quite precise ways which, of course, they cannot do when the books are kept under cover of glass cabinets.”
Having selected about 30 layouts, the school is now working with map experts and photographers to curate their digital exhibition, with the aim of completing the project by the end of 2011.
“The intention is to unlock a little-known resource at the heart of the University’s research and teaching environment in an exciting, vibrant and easy to use form,” says Head of Special Collections Michael Richardson, conceding that the maps are “under-utilised”.
“Ultimately, it would provide a one-off, dynamic, interactive and globally accessible showcase of the University’s visually stunning research resources, and hopefully entice on-line exhibition viewers to visit the collections for further study and research.”
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