Emma Willard: 'mapping time' in the way that cartography mapped space
January 27, 2020 2:04 PM   Subscribe

The current proliferation of visual information mirrors a similar moment in the early nineteenth century, when the advent of new printing techniques coincided with the rapid expansion of education. Schoolrooms from the Atlantic seaboard to the Mississippi frontier made room for the children of farmers as well as merchants, girls as well as boys. Together, these shifts created a robust and highly competitive market for school materials, including illustrated textbooks, school atlases, and even the new genre of wall maps. No individual exploited this publishing opportunity more than Emma Willard, one of the century’s most influential educators. Emma Willard's Maps of Time (Public Domain Review)

More from Public Domain Review:
From the 1820s through the Civil War, Willard’s history and geography textbooks exposed an entire generation of students to her deeply patriotic narratives, all of which were studded with innovative and creative pictures of information that sought to translate big data into manageable visual forms.

When Willard began publishing textbooks in the 1820s, she knew the competition was fierce, full of sharp-elbowed authors who routinely accused one another of plagiarizing ideas and text. To build her brand, she designed cutting-edge graphics that would differentiate her work and catch the attention of the young. Take, for instance, her “Perspective Sketch of the Course of Empire” of 1835. (David Rumsey)
Emma Willard and the graphic foundations of American history (PDF; Susan Schulten, Department of History, University of Denver) -- Abstract:
Emma Hart Willard (1787 -- 1870) authored one of the most widely printed textbooks of United States history (History of the United States, Or, Republic of America, 1843 edition; Archive.org), and created the first historical atlas of the United States (Boston Rare Maps). By drawing maps, graphs, and pictures of the country’s past, Willard helped translate the fact of the country as a physical entity into the much more powerful fact of the country as a nation. Given the current academic reoccupation with the production, experience, and depiction of space, Willard’s experimentation with the relationship of history and geography is highly worthy of close attention. Willard used the spatial dimension of the American past to engage students, develop their memories, integrate history and geography, and--most importantly--to consolidate national identity. In the process, learning itself became an act of nationalism.
posted by filthy light thief (5 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

Thank you for this!

I immediately wanted to know whether Randall Munroe has seen this stuff. Mr. eirias wanted to know whether Edward Tufte has.
posted by eirias at 6:16 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]

posted by storybored at 6:25 PM on January 27

Tufte retweeted this a couple of days ago, so he certainly knows of Willard at least.
posted by tavella at 6:42 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]

If this kind of thing is of interest I really reccomend Cartographies of Time which mentions Willard and situates her work within the context of other attempts to visualise time.
posted by tomp at 2:25 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]

« Older "A preservation of the shady side of the 90s...   |   Squeeze the hand. Newer »

You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.