Upload new images. The image library for this site will open in a new window.
Upload new documents. The document library for this site will open in a new window.
Show web part zones on the page. Web parts can be added to display dynamic content such as calendars or photo galleries.
Choose between different arrangements of page sections. Page layouts can be changed even after content has been added.
Move this whole section down, swapping places with the section below it.
Check for and fix problems in the body text. Text pasted in from other sources may contain malformed HTML which the code cleaner will remove.
Accordion feature turned off, click to turn on.
Accordion featurd turned on, click to turn off.
Change the way the image is cropped for this page layout.
Cycle through size options for this image or video.
Align the media panel to the right/left in this section.
Open the image pane in this body section. Click in the image pane to select an image from the image library.
Open the video pane in this body section. Click in the video pane to embed a video. Click ? for step-by-step instructions.
Remove the image from the media panel. This does not delete the image from the library.
Remove the video from the media panel.
Detail of Hendrik Hondius' "Nova Totivs Terrarvm Orbis Geographica
AC Hydrographica Tabvla, in Atlas Novus, Volume 1." Amsterdam, 1638.
Hand-colored engraving on paper. From the University of Delaware's
Whether we’re looking for buried treasure or planning our next road trip, we tend to put our trust in maps.
For centuries, maps have been seen as reputable sources of
information, but they haven’t always been accurate representations of
the geography they span. Cartographers included islands that didn’t
exist. They used text to cover up unexplored areas. They illustrated
similar terrains differently to make one land seem less developed than
By studying the differences between maps and exploring why those
discrepancies exist, we can learn about the history of the world. “A
good way to understand changes at the macro level in the history of
global cartography is to look closely at maps, as many and as varying as
possible, and to think critically about logical reasons that might
explain those discrepancies, if not even also link them together,” said
Prof. Vimalin Rujivacharakul from the Department of Art History.
The University of Delaware has a strong collection of rare and
precious early modern maps from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in the
Library, Museums and Press’ Special Collections. Using these maps as
the foundation, Rujivacharakul collaborated with staff at the Library to
design four seminar courses, spanning two years, which would culminate
in a student-curated exhibition.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Students in the first three seminars — a graduate seminar in Fall
2019, and undergraduate honors seminars in spring 2020 and fall 2020 —
were assigned projects to create research videos about the maps. Students in the curatorial seminar then integrated these videos into an exhibition about the maps in spring 2021.
Whether comparing maps in their videos or exploring ways to link the
maps together in an exhibition, students were challenged not just to
learn from these maps, but also to create something that would help
others engage with them.
To simultaneously study these maps and create tools for others to
learn from them would be a tall order during a normal semester, but
three of the four seminars also faced the added challenge of doing so
during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The keys to their success? According to Rujivacharakul, it came down to three things: “patience, persistence and collaboration.”
Hendrik Hondius' "Nova Totivs Terrarvm Orbis Geographica AC
Hydrographica Tabvla, in Atlas Novus, Volume 1." (A detail is at the
top of this article.)
The graduate and honors undergraduate students in Rujivacharakul’s
first three seminars already had experience writing standard research
papers when they enrolled in her class. This course allowed students to
build on those skills.
Working directly with the maps, students conducted object-based
research. They learned how to share their research in plain language for
a general audience to understand and how to create
high-quality videos that allow the public to engage with the rare maps
they studied in dynamic ways.
To bring such a complex assignment to life, Rujivacharakul co-taught
these seminars with two of her colleagues in the Library, Museums and
Press — Alex Johnston, associate librarian in Special Collections and
Museums, and Jessica Barth, emerging multimedia technologies librarian
in the Student Multimedia Design Center.
Students met with Johnston to delve deeper into the maps they were
researching. “Alex pulled many materials from Special Collections for us
to consult during class time and he offered his expertise concerning
the Special Collections material, cartographic traditions, and printing
and book-making techniques,” said Erin Hein, a doctoral student in art
history who took the seminar in fall 2019.
In addition to the maps in Special Collections, Hein and her
classmates visited the Library of Congress — a trip coordinated by the
late alumnus Edward Redmond, who worked in the Geography and Maps
Division of the Library of Congress — to see how their robust collection
of maps complemented those at UD
Abraham Ortelius’ "Indiae Orientalis, insularumque adiacientium
typos." Antwerp, 1588. Hand-colored engraving on paper. From the
University of Delaware’s Special Collections.
“It was such a joy to work directly with objects, and getting to see
so many maps in person helped me to understand how the Mercurio
Geografico [map] fit into this larger narrative of how early modern
Europeans were conceptualizing foreign lands,” Hein said.
Despite the pandemic, this aspect of comparing maps across
collections continued as Johnston worked to find maps from libraries
around the globe, and Rujivacharakul connected her students with
individuals at those institutions to learn more.
As the students researched their maps,
they also worked with Barth to begin thinking through how to tell a
visual story with their research and the basics of making a video. The
students created storyboards, photographed the maps in Special
Collections, recorded (and re-recorded) audio narration, selected
background music, and built the videos in iMovie.
“I think that it was a really good experience for me, and it was my
first time to create videos,” said Jizhi Zhang, a recent graduate who
took the seminar in fall 2020. From controlling the speed and intonation
of their voices to adding subtitles and explanatory text, Zhang and the
other students in the seminars learned the nuances of video creation
with Barth there to guide them. “Through one semester of study, I have
confidence in making videos,” Zhang said.
While the assignment was challenging, the students developed skills
they’ll be able to apply in their professional careers. “Translating the
research I had done into three 3-minute-long videos was the most
difficult part of the project,” Hein said. “I really had to be selective
about what I included and make sure that every photograph and all of
the information had a purpose and contributed to a coherent story … I
also really appreciated the exercise of translating obscure, theoretical
research into a format that speaks to a general audience. That is a
skill that I will continue to use in the future.”
To ensure that Rujivacharakul’s students left the seminar with a
meaningful learning experience took a lot of advance planning. At the
outset of the seminars, she worked closely with Paige Morgan, head of
the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Department at the Library.
Together, they refined and scoped the assignment so that it would be a
manageable workload for the students. Morgan helped Rujivacharakul
create the themed WordPress site where the videos could live, and
assisted her with uploading the final videos with proper tags and
labels. They also created a release form that allowed students to grant
or withhold their permission to include their work on the website in an
effort to prioritize student researchers’ rights and their digital,
While the six students in the curatorial seminar in spring 2021 had
previous experience working in galleries and curating exhibitions, it
was a new challenge for everyone to curate an exhibition during a
To succeed required collaboration at every turn.
Like Rujivacharakul’s other seminars, one way that collaboration took
shape was through the guidance of internal and external curators. In
addition to continued support from the Library, Rujivacharakul also
invited external curators — Robert Mintz, deputy director of the Asian
Art Museum of San Francisco; James Lin, senior curator at the
Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England; and John Hessler, curator at
the Library of Congress — to co-teach the seminar or provide guest
The other essential collaboration was between the curatorial team. In
addition to their weekly Wednesday classes with Rujivacharakul, the
students met on Fridays for three- to four-hour meetings to brainstorm
ideas, set goals and provide progress updates. “Working together, we
were able to explore different ideas, consider a number of approaches we
might not have thought of individually, and teach each other about some
of the works we were researching for the show,” said Tom Price, a
doctoral student in art history and member of the curatorial team.
At the start of the semester, each member of the curatorial team
individually visited Special Collections in Morris Library to get
inspired by the University’s collection of maps. Johnston, who was
involved with the earlier seminars, and Curtis Small, associate
librarian in Special Collections and Museums, coordinated these visits —
ensuring proper COVID-19 health and safety protocols were observed —
and provided insights into the maps.
During those visits, the members of the curatorial team narrowed in
on objects, subjects and themes of interest. As a group, they discussed
these interests and worked to tie them together to present a connected,
Every element of the exhibition was a team effort. The ensuing exhibition, Multiple Middles: Maps from Early Modern Times, is a result of the distinct collaboration and cooperation within the team.
“The curatorial team attempted to view the maps with a globally
oriented approach, understanding the international interactions and
movements of people, ideas and materials through what is delineated,
implied and/or hidden on the surface of the maps,” said Yoojin Choi, a
doctoral student in art history and member of the curatorial team.
Dakota H. Stevens, a doctoral student in art history and member of
the curatorial team, said, “We wanted an exhibit that took how people
normally look at maps and narrowed their focus to specific aspects that
might turn conventional views of the world on their head.”
As a testament to the collaboration by team members, they were even
able to turn the challenging realities of the pandemic into
opportunities to enhance their online exhibition.
“Our main impression of many of these objects, like our visitors, is
through the photos we were able to take of them,” Price said. “While
normally conceived as a limitation, we used it as an opportunity to
think about how we could best convey the material and conceptual
richness of these objects while limited to digital representations.”
To build out the online exhibition, they worked closely with Dustin
Frohlich, processing archivist in Special Collections and Museums, who
formats the online exhibitions of the Library, Museums and Press. His
insights and support were invaluable to the team as they brainstormed
how they wanted to convey their information. “Working with Dustin … was a
very engaging and encouraging experience,” Stevens said. “He never said
‘no’ to any of our ideas as outlandish as they may have seemed at the
time, but always said he could try it out and see if it could be done.”
While they faced challenges along the way, the curatorial team had
the freedom to design the exhibition they imagined, and they had the
expert guidance to help bring their ideas to life. During the continued
isolation of the pandemic, these students honed collaborative skills,
like flexibility, teamwork and problem-solving, that will be essential
in their careers as art history and museum professionals.
In the end, Multiple Middles is an exhibition wholly unique to the
curatorial team’s combined vision and fortitude that encourages visitors
to join this ongoing journey of learning and discovery by engaging with
these rare global maps in dynamic and exciting ways.
The online exhibition, Multiple Middles: Maps from Early Modern Times,
is now available. A physical installation of this exhibition will be on
view in the Special Collections Gallery in Morris Library in Spring
2022. Find a full list of research videos created in support of the
Article by Allison Ebner
Photos courtesy of Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press
Published Aug. 6, 2021