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September 28, 2004

Lecture on mapping returns by popular demand

Margaret Beck Pritchard, Colonial Williamsburg curator of prints, maps and wallpaper, will give a repeat performance of her acclaimed lecture “Degrees of Latitude: Mapping Colonial America,” based on an extraordinary exhibitions of maps currently on display at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.The lecture will be held at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 12, in the Wallace Museum’s Hennage Auditorium.Admission to the lecture is free with museum admission.

Pritchard will discuss the important role that maps played as powerful pieces of propaganda during the 17th and 18th centuries. In particular, the decoration on early maps provided a vehicle for early mapmakers and colonial expansionists to convey a host of attitudes and values that shape our understanding of the European approach to colonizing the New World. She also will discuss the importance of several of the exhibition highlights including: a manuscript map of the Virginia campaign used by Lafayette during the Revolution; the Custis Atlas, once owned by Virginian John Custis IV and passed through the Custis family for several generations, and the original drawing of the Mason-Dixon Line map, a magnificent historical document produced in 1768 by two British surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. Mason and Dixon determined the official boundaries between the colonies of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Later, during the Civil War, the line would become the imaginary boundary between the American North and South.

Pritchard is co-author of “Degrees of Latitude: Mapping Colonial America, 1590-1787,” published jointly by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in New York, and generously funded by Anna Glen Vietor in memory of her husband Alexander Orr Vietor. Henry G. Taliaferro, also co-author of the book, is a well-known dealer of rare maps in New York. The book is available at the Williamsburg Booksellers at Colonial Williamsburg’s Visitor Center for $95.

In support of the exhibition, Colonial Williamsburg has launched an online “virtual” display, “Mapping Colonial America,” comprising 22 of the maps from the display. Following the close of “Degrees of Latitude” at the Wallace Museum in August 2005, the collection will return to climate- and light-controlled storage to preserve the maps for posterity. The online version, accessible at, will allow these works to continue to be studied and enjoyed in digital format, even though the maps themselves no longer will be on display.

Media Contact:
Sophia Hart
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