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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Cushing home to maps of fantasy worlds

Photo by Spencer Russo

Dozens of fantastical maps of lands ranging from Middle Earth to Westeros are now on display at Cushing.

Cushing Library houses the world’s second largest collection of science fiction and fantasy works, including first edition novels of J.R.R Tolkien and numerous manuscripts by George R.R. Martin. On Feb. 9, the library opened its new display, “Worlds Imagined: The Maps of Imaginary Places Collection,” allowing a visual element to be placed alongside the many fantasy worlds that can be found in Cushing.
The project was a joint effort between Cushing and Evans libraries. Jeremy Brett, the Science Fiction and Fantasy collection curator at Cushing library, and Sierra Laddusaw, map librarian at the Maps & GIS Library in Evans, noticed popularity within the libraries’ map collections. They decided to begin collecting more, birthing the idea for the “Worlds Imagined” display.  
“Worlds Imagined” contains many unique maps, including works directly from the authors and fanart.
“A really interesting map is the ‘Fairyland map,’” Laddusaw said. “It’s from 1925 so it’s a second edition, and every folklore is represented. You have Little Red Riding Hood over here and Rapunzel over there … We also have a Pokémon map, a Zelda map. There’s a National Geographic map of pantheon mythology. We love maps; we went full cheese with it.”
Laddusaw said she hopes the display encourages people to revisit works they have read in the past or spark an interest in new ones.
“What I hope people get out of this is that they view places in a new way, and say to themselves, ‘I want to read that,’ or ‘I want to watch that’ or ‘I want to go back and look at it again,’” Laddusaw said.
Maps can do more than inspire nostalgia or curiosity of a new world. David Carlson, dean of University Libraries, said maps provide a different perspective on the fantasy world.
“People like maps from a display perspective, but when combined with fantasy, it allows for a different way to imagine the story … it adds a different graphical element to show where the story might have gone,” Carlson said.
The collection opened Feb. 9 with guest lecturer Priscilla Spencer, a fantasy cartographer. Among her illustrations are “Map of the Source” for Myke Cole’s “Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier,” “Battlefield Map” for “Breach Zone” and the map for Jim Butcher’s “First Lord’s Fury.” Spencer said the most important part of map making is determining the point of view in the map.
“You need a sense of perspective and a point of view. The best maps have human decision and are deliberate, they have artwork and the map exudes a tone in one quick visual way,” Spencer said. “Who is making the map? You need to feel like they exist in that world and the fictional map-maker needs to have a personal connection with the narrative.”
Spencer said maps should feel like they come from the world they are displaying.
“When you look at the map at the beginning of ‘The Hobbit,’ you want to feel like you are looking at the map Bilbo and Thorin used on their journey. Maps should make you feel like you are holding an artifact of that world, and you can see that world’s priorities and values through visual cues,” Spencer said.
Eric Schall, Class of 2011 and geoscientist, said what drew him to the event was the collision of the imaginary and reality that exists within maps of fantasy worlds.
“Part of storytelling is to tell us things about our world. Taking that same concept, you can apply it to what Priscilla is doing [fantasy map illustrations],” Schall said. “Maps can be propaganda — like displaying a country as an octopus holding onto its colonies — and they reflect a place’s culture. They allow us to share experiences before we experience them ourselves because they convey information to the reader. Geology and cartography is the nexus of science and art.”
The exhibit is open to the public and will run through Oct. 10.     

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