Fantasy worlds put to paper

Numerous books along with replica weapons are part of the Cushing Library's George R.R. Martin collection. Opening Friday, the “Worlds Imagined: The Maps of Imaginary Places Collection” exhibit will feature the fantasy maps of a number of well-know fictional worlds from literature, TV, movies and video games, including The Wizard of Oz, The Legend of Zelda, Star Trek and Martin's books, which inspired the Game of Thrones television series.

A new exhibit at Texas A&M University's Cushing Memorial Library is preparing to give visitors the opportunity to explore a multitude of imaginary worlds.

Opening Friday, the "Worlds Imagined: The Maps of Imaginary Places Collection" exhibit will feature the fantasy maps of a number of well-know fictional worlds from literature, TV, movies and video games, including The Wizard of Oz, The Legend of Zelda, Star Trek, the Game of Thrones series and more.

"There's something really appealing about a map, you get to see places you've never visited, and it's very visual and easy to understand," said Sierra Laddusaw, map librarian at Texas A&M's maps and geographic information system library. "I like where the art and science blurs. Some of these maps are drawn by a person with very clear cartography skills. ... This kind of takes it out of the scientific, travel realm and transports it into art."

The exhibit features official map designs included with the source material as well as artist interpretations of the fictional worlds. Laddusaw said she sees the maps as a "nice way of illustrating how people have viewed these worlds."

She said the collection has been a popular draw in the past -- citing the example of students stopping by to see a map of fictional wizarding school Hogwarts from the Harry Potter book series -- and thinks the exhibit displaying the maps will be a fun way to bring in new visitors to the library.

Jeremy Brett, curator for science fiction and fantasy collection, said among his favorite pieces in the collection is also the oldest -- a map of North America created in 1690 as imagined by explorers at the time.

"It shows a real place, but it's kind of a mythical interpretation of it," Brett said. "California is shown as an island, this mythical paradise. The Great Lakes are all drained to one single place rather than as separate bodies of water. It's just cool to see the map of a real place through an imaginary lens."

Along with the inherent nostalgia of revisiting the fictional worlds through their two-dimensional representations, Brett said he believes the maps hold a special place in giving an audience another way of diving further into a story.

"It's hard not to open a fantasy book sometimes without seeing a map in it," Brett said. "It's fun to follow the quest of your characters. You can put yourself in their place and trace their route as they go from point A to point B and know where they are going and what they are seeing. ... The possibilities inherent in maps -- whether they are fantasy or real -- are immense."

The exhibit will be kicked off Thursday evening with a public reception and opening lecture featuring fantasy cartographer and Texan Priscilla Spencer, who will have three of her own maps represented among the exhibit.

The event is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

For more information, visit cushing.library.tamu.edu.

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