GREENSBURG – The Indiana State Historical Society's display "Indiana Through the Mapmaker's Eye" is on display in the Historical Society of Decatur County's gallery until Sept. 12.

This exhibit examines four ways people have used maps through the years: As documentation, as tools, as political images, and as art.

Some of the maps included in the display are an 1833 Indiana pocket map, an 1881 bird's eye view of Mount Vernon, Indiana, and a circa 1880 scale-model map of the University of Notre Dame.

To a certain extent, all maps are works of art; they are graphic interpretations of real places. The use of color, symbols representing physical features, styles of lettering and pictorial elements make cartography as much an art as a simple recording of geographical "what" and "where." And the style of the map and the way the features are presented are also snapshots of the time and place in which they were created.

The earliest known map is a matter of some debate.

According to Wikipedia, a wall painting that depicts the ancient Turkish city of Çatalhöyük has been dated to 7000 BC. Prehistoric rock carvings in the mountains of France and Italy date back to 4000 BC.

The oldest surviving world maps are from 9th century BC Babylonia. One shows Babylon on the Euphrates River surrounded by Assyria with Babylon depicted as the center of the world.

Notable famous maps of the world have been presented as woodcarvings, as animal hides stained with primitive fruit- and vegetable-based dyes, and even pained on ancient pottery and carved copper plates depicting the whereabouts of ancient cities.

For the first time, in 1778 the name "Indiana" appears for a region that later became part of West Virginia. Other maps from the late 1700s and early 1800s reflect border disputes between Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and the Hoosier state.

"I think what is most interesting about the exhibit is how the representations of Indiana changed so much from the early 1700s to the Civil War," said Decatur County Historical Society Executive Director Carrie Schumaker. "This exhibit is free to Indiana museums, but we'll only have it till September 12."

Included in the exhibit are maps dating from 1819 showing only 32 southern Indiana counties, with the vast majority of the state depicted as uncharted territory. Another map represents the work of Philadelphia cartographer Anthony Finley in 1831.

The Decatur County Historical Society Museum, 222 N. Franklin Street, Greensburg, is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays January through March, with additional open times from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays April through December.

Call the museum at 812-663-2764 to schedule alternate days or times.


Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-7011 or email

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