Vector Maps: The British Library’s Virtual Map Room
In 2017 the British Library held an exhibition entitled Maps and the 20th Century. The exhibition explored some of the most famous maps of the 20th Century and the development of mapping technology over those 100 years.
The 20th Century was a golden age for cartography, a century when maps went digital and ended up becoming an important feature of our daily lives. The British Library exhibition ended in 2017 and even if it was still on you wouldn’t be allowed to leave your house. But don’t worry you can still visit the exhibition virtually with the Maps and the 20th Century virtual tour. This tour uses a series of 360 degree panoramic images to allow you to wander around the rooms of the exhibit and zoom in and out on individual maps featured in the exhibition.
Unfortunately you can’t zoom in far enough to read the notes accompanying each map. However you can read the British Library’s article The map of the world in the 20th century, which does discuss the importance of some of the maps featured in the exhibition.
For example, one of the first maps in the exhibition is the Navy League Map (pictured above), a world map created to celebrate and portray the reach of the British Empire and the role of the Royal Navy within it. The British Library essay describes the map as “an effective propaganda piece which enabled the Navy League to promote continuing investment in the Navy. It would also have been a prominent fixture in school classrooms and fixed the image of empire in the minds of impressionable schoolchildren.”