About this exhibition

In 1995 the University of Virginia Library produced the exhibition and accompanying catalogue of Lewis and Clark maps entitled "Exploring the West from Monticello: A Perspective in Maps from Columbus to Lewis and Clark.” Since the opening of the original exhibition, the exhibition web site has received more than 163,000 hits and library staff have shown the maps from the exhibition to nearly 700 scholars, map enthusiasts, and school children. As the numbers suggest, the story of Lewis and Clark’s heroic expedition across the country remains perennially popular among history buffs and, as the 200th anniversary of the explorers’ departure on the expedition approaches, the subject is steadily growing in popularity.

"Exploring the West from Monticello: A Perspective in Maps from Columbus to Lewis and Clark,” was the brainchild of Guy Benson, a member of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. The Trail Heritage Foundation meets annually to celebrate the route that Lewis and Clark followed on their voyage of discovery. In the summer of 1995, the foundation met in Charlottesville to acknowledge Jefferson’s hometown as the beginning of that trail. Mr. Benson wanted to create an exhibition that would display the maps that Jefferson had owned as he planned the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Happily, the McGregor Library in the Special Collections Department of the University of Virginia Library already had in its collection nearly all of the maps needed to tell the story of the planning of the expedition. The exhibition was very popular while it was on display from July to September 1995. But the real impact has lived on well beyond the physical exhibition. The University of Virginia Library published an accompanying catalogue with the support of the Library Associates and with a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Nearly 2,000 copies of this catalogue have been distributed. Also, after the physical exhibition came down, we created a web version of the exhibition using the exhibition text and photographs of the maps—a brand-new idea at the time.

Over the years, the catalogue, the web site, and, indeed, the very subject of Lewis and Clark have remained so popular that, as the bicentennial approached, the Library wanted to be involved in the celebration. In 1999, University of Virginia President John Casteen appointed a committee of academics from around the University to commemorate the Lewis and Clark bicentennial. Plans for the celebration include speakers, colloquia, student involvement, and much more, representing an interdisciplinary initiative that has drawn together members from departments around the University as diverse as anthropology, architecture, environmental science, and history. The Library, for its part in the University celebration and commemoration of the expedition, is remounting the Lewis and Clark exhibition and republishing the catalogue. The exhibition will be on display in the McGregor Room of the University of Virginia Library from November 2002 through May 2003.

Lewis and Clark: The Maps of Exploration 1507-1814 reflects a re-envisioning of the original exhibition and catalogue. We have added some new items that were acquired since the first exhibition and we have omitted a section on navigational instruments that was in the original version. In 1995, when digital technology was in its infancy, we used black and white photographs of the maps in the catalogue and on the web site. We have now re-imaged all of the maps using state-of-the-art digital technology and have used these images both in this newly designed web site and in the book Lewis and Clark: The Maps of Exploration 1507-1814.

Heather Moore Riser
Special Collections
University of Virginia Library

Lewis and Clark: The Maps of Exploration 1507-1814
was on display in Special Collections in Alderman Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., from November 11, 2002, through May 5, 2003.

Visit the 1995 exhibition's website Exploring the West from Monticello: A Perspective in Maps from Columbus to Lewis and Clark