The UT Benson Latin American Collection’s exhibit of hand-drawn maps, “Mapping Mexican History: Territories in Dispute, Identities in Question,” moved to the city’s Faulk Central Library in late June, marking the first collaboration between the two libraries.
Replicated from the University’s “Relaciones Geográficas” collection, the 16 displayed maps reveal Mexico’s transformation from a series of colonial settlements reaching present-day California and Texas to the modern state. Julianne Gilland, the special collections curator at the Benson, said the exhibit provides a different approach to maps’ roles in society.
“We think of maps as being way finders or precise representations of empirical information,” Gilland said. “But maps have authors — whether they’re individuals, communities or governments — that are telling a particular story.”
One of these stories is the role of indigenous scribes in the Spaniards’ survey of territories during the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Both Spanish colonists and indigenous artists worked together to create some of the earliest maps on display, Gilland said. Later maps from the 18th century show a different relationship between indigenous groups and the Spaniards. One map dating back to 1752 marks the changes in territorial control after indigenous uprisings in present-day Arizona.
“Documents like these are fairly rare and an important resource for people who want to know more about indigenous communities,” Gilland said.
Toni Grasso, Austin Public Library marketing and public information officer, said this exhibit is the first of an upcoming series of art shows and academic talks. Grasso said she hopes these events will establish the public libraries as a center for community events.
Jennifer Connor, a librarian at the Faulk Central Library, said she volunteered to bring the collection to the Faulk Central Library because it can provide an academic, learning experience for their visitors.
“They’re not just pretty pictures on the wall,” Connor said. “It’s important in libraries to show where things have come from, and perhaps people can learn a thing or two while they’re viewing the exhibit.”
Connor said she hopes to see the Faulk Central Library host more academic collections from the Benson’s libraries, such as the posters and archives from Central American revolutions on display now at the Benson.