Maps and views blog

Cartographic perspectives from our Map Librarians

04 November 2016

Step onto the map: the British Library's exhibition is open

Welcome to Maps & the 20th century: Drawing the Line, the biggest map exhibition of the decade and the first to showcase the mapping of the ‘cartographic century’.


Heinrich Berann, Atlantic ocean floor. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Magazine, June 1968. Maps CC.5.b.42.

We have selected 200 maps from our collection of 4 million maps, supplemented by a handful of crucial loans) in order to showcase their technological development, their increasing variety, and what they meant to 20th century western  society

Viewing history through objects is an important way of unlocking our past, and maps are more eloquent than most objects in providing snapshots upon a past that may be just behind us, yet appears like a foreign country.


Lancashire Coalfield. National Coal Board, c. 1983. Maps 188.v.38.

Of course, maps are not always the most reliable witnesses, and we are keen to show how maps shaped perceptions of the world through what they included, what they left out, what they placed in the middle.


John Arthur Carter, This is where I am just now, I’m still ‘on the map’ you see! Eastbourne, c.1914, Maps C.1.a.9.(199).

Drawing the Line will immerse you in an array of 20th century virtual worlds, from the iconic to the unusual, from the secret to the compelling. You will quite literally step onto a map when you cross the threshold....

... and by the way we’ll be mapping you as you do so.

15.My Ghost 2016-London_press

Jeremy Wood, [My Ghost 2000-2016]. London, 2016. Maps CC.6.a.83. ©Jeremy Wood 2016

A book of the exhibition is published by the British Library and features chapters by Nick Baron, Jeremy Black, Tim Bryars and Mike Heffernan.

View a list of our series of entertaining events

See our schools and adult learning programme

Follow us on Twitter @BLMaps

.. and remember that there is more than one way to read a map.