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Cartography in the Age of Enlightenment to Open Soon at the Reading Public Museum

by Reading Public Museum

Cartography in the Age of Enlightenment to Open Soon at the Reading Public Museum

The Reading Public Museum announces the opening of Cartography in the Age of Enlightenment in the Works on Paper Gallery on The Museum’s Ground Floor.

Made up entirely of works from The Museum’s permanent collection, Cartography in the Age of Enlightenment explores the art and science of mapmaking during the “long 18th century.” Featuring over 30 maps and supplemented with several cartographical instruments and charts, this exhibition includes maps picturing both the Old World and the New. It includes views of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Russia, and the Americas.

The Age of Enlightenment (1685 – 1815) was a time of tremendous human achievement as prominent thinkers made advancements in science, politics, and philosophy. A reaction to the tyranny and religious oppression of the medieval era, the Age of Enlightenment offered democratic ideals and championed civil liberties, applied scientific and industrial innovations, and ushered in the modern era, laying the foundations for society as we know it today.

Following the Age of Exploration, when many European explorers took to the seas in search of new lands, the need for geographers and cartographers exploded. Large-scale, state-sponsored geographic projects were undertaken by all of the world’s empires. The widespread adoption of the printing press and subsequent improvements in printing allowed for the wide dissemination of maps, charts, and atlases. It was during this period that many cartographic processes were standardized and institutionalized, and 1884 saw the universal establishment of the prime meridian at Greenwich, England. Above all, Enlightenment cartographers strove to advance the accuracy of their maps. As methods and tools continued to be improved, Enlightenment-era maps saw a decrease in superfluous decoration and ornamentation and an increase in mathematical precision.

Cartography in the Age of Enlightenment will be on display from Sept. 23 to Dec. 31, 2023.

The Reading Public Museum is supported in part by grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and is located at 500 Museum Road, Reading, PA. Admission per day is $10 adults (18-64), $6 children/seniors/college students (w/ID), and free to members and children three years old and under. The Museum is open daily 11 a.m. to  5 p.m.  Visit Online: