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March 8, 2011

Ancient Maps and Prints Reveal Their Stories in New Exhibition at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum

Maps fascinate many people because of the ability of those ancient documents to reveal stories about the past. Maps serve a variety of practical purposes — to document new discoveries, to facilitate travel, to claim land and to record military activity. As scientific and authoritative documents, maps imparted a perception of power and control over the environment. They also served as important tools for swaying public opinion when their creators carefully considered what information to include — or omit.

A new Colonial Williamsburg exhibition explores this captivating world of maps and prints in myriad detail. “More Than Meets The Eye” opens Saturday, March 26 in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

“The exhibition takes our guests from the very earliest English attempts to settle North America through the American Revolution,” said Margaret Pritchard, Colonial Williamsburg’s curator of maps and prints. “Upon arrival, explorers and colonists began to encounter other cultures and to promote settlement of the New World. The exhibition documents changing relationships with the native population, the clash of France and Great Britain to control the North American continent and finally, victory over the British and the birth of a new nation.”

From the very first attempts to colonize the Americas, artists and mapmakers created impressions of the New World that fueled European imaginations. However, 17th- and 18th-century maps, portraits, landscapes and cartoons depicting America often asserted a European perspective that conveyed and reinforced a host of attitudes and values.

“More Than Meets The Eye” will be on view through August 2012. The Nicholas and Eleanor Chabraja Foundation funded the exhibition. The Chabrajas, of Lake Forest, Ill., have supported Colonial Williamsburg more than 30 years and are members of the Colonial Williamsburg Associates.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets in Williamsburg, Va., and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday – Thursday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday through March 13; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily thereafter. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Philanthropic support by individuals, corporations, and foundations benefits the educational mission of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281