by Leonora Navari
Head Cartographer
London, September 2005

"Mapping Mediterranean Lands", known familiarly as the ‘MEDMAPS’ project, sought to identify, catalog, conserve, and make electronically accessible maps in American overseas research centers around the Mediterranean area. This project forms part of the Digital Library for International Research (DLIR), an on-line union catalog of the libraries of all the American overseas research centers, under the aegis of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC). The aim of this project was to inventory the maps held by the various centers: that is, to identify and list the maps held by each research center and to create a fully searchable web-based catalog of particular interest to scholars working on the history and politics of the Mediterranean basin. This web site connects to the DLIR catalog and showcases sixteen representative maps from the participating centers. (See: Map Exhibition)

For the purposes of the MedMaps Project, these research centers include the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, the American Academy in Rome (AAR), the two centers which form the Maghreb Studies group: that is, the Tangier American Legation Museum (TALM) and the Centre d'Études Maghrébines à Tunis (CEMAT), the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) in Nicosia, the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman, the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT-A) in Ankara, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), in Cairo , and the W.F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research (AIAR) in Jerusalem. There are no doubt cartographical collections in American universities in the region, but they are not included in this inventory.

These research centers are independent bodies, not connected to or administered by any governmental agencies or any university body. Some may be supported by universities in the United States, but the centers are not administered by these universities: each center is a separate entity. Most of them began as centers of archaeological research, designed to support scholars working in specific geographical areas and in a wide variety of cultures, from the neolithic to the late medieval periods. In more recent periods they also support scholars working on contemporary political and cultural issues. I dwell on this fact because each institute works in a different way, has a different set of priorities and problems, and thus each has a different approach to its map collections. It has been a rich experience for me to visit each center in turn and to deal with each of these interesting collections of maps.

Each collection is different not only in composition but also in its theoretical structure. That is, the map collections were formed in a variety of ways. Some are merely accidental accretions, the leavings of scholars working at in the region. Others reflect the interests of a particular individual. Some collections continue to be built on a systematic basis, others continue to grow in a haphazard fashion.

The premier collection is no doubt that of the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies, which contains about 3000 maps. It is based on the collection of the original founder of the Library, John Gennadius (1844-1932), and reflects his interest in the historical relations of Greece with its neighbours. This collection continues to be enriched on the same basis. Thus, in addition to maps of Greece, the collection contains many historical maps of the Balkans, Turkey, the Near East, Egypt and so forth.

The maps in the Tangier American Legation Museum are for the most part antiquarian maps of Morocco and North Africa; most of them were given to the Museum over a period of years by a single enthusiastic collector who was interested in the historical cartography of the region and wanted to support the efforts to create a museum in the 17th century building which housed the first American consulate to be established abroad. The collection is so complete that it could be used as a source to write the history of the cartography of North Africa.

The Centre d'Etudes Maghrebines a Tunis is a relatively new foundation, and its map collection reflects this. Most of the maps are military maps of North Africa, some dating from the First World War and reflecting the colonial past. In addition there are also a number of antiquarian maps which are used for decorative purposes.

The American Center of Oriental Research in Amman has a very large collection of maps, for the most part military maps of the Middle East. These maps reflect the concern of military planners for accurate topographical and geographical information and include maps from the British Survey of Egypt and Palestine. A number of these maps are in Arabic. They were acquired by purchase and also as gifts by several donors.

The W.F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research in Jerusalem has a large collection of maps which covers several areas of interest. These include historical cartography, travel and exploration for archaeological purposes, and military maps which reflect the historical and political developments in the region. The maps constructed by British cartographers during the surveys of Jerusalem and of Eastern and Western Palestine reflect in particular the sometimes close connection between archaeological research and the gathering of strategic and military information.

The Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute has a large collection of maps of Cyprus, which are the result of systematic acquisition, and which reflect the importance of Cyprus for the maintenance of military domination in the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. The maps also reflect Cyprus’s position as a bridge between East and West, both culturally and commercially. CAARI also holds maps of the Middle East, Greece and other parts of Europe which seem to have been acquired randomly, often as gifts.

The American Research Center in Egypt has a mixed collection of maps which may reflect the changing interests of the directors and librarians over the years. The collection includes several very rare items, including a complete set of Napoleon’s Description of Egypt with its valuable atlas of maps constructed by the engineers of the French Army of Egypt in 1798. This is the only complete set of this work to be found in any of the American Overseas Research Centers, and is certainly one of the very few to be found in the Levant generally. At the same time it contains a very important recently completed map of the Arab monuments in Cairo, as well as the latest tourist maps.

There is no specific ‘map collection’ in the American Academy in Rome. That is, the maps are not together in one place, nor are they cataloged together. They are cataloged in the library according to the Dewey Decimal System, sometimes under the category of geography and sometimes under the category of history, depending on the individual map contents, and they are shelved as such. In addition, according to this system, it is not always possible to distinguish between a map and a book about maps. One of the benefits of the inventory is that the map collection of the American Academy is now being cataloged as a unit, and the researcher will be able to retrieve the maps directly. The Academy library contains rare maps and plans of Rome from the 16th century to the 20th centuries, as well as a fine collection of maps of Italy.

Although the centers are completely independent of each other, have a different history, and have developed in different ways, the inventory revealed that the map collections complement each other. For example, in Amman there is an album of British Admiralty charts of the Mediterranean containing perhaps the most complete set of maps of the coasts of Cyprus now available. These maps are not to be found in CAARI, the research center in Cyprus. Yet CAARI has a complete set of the sheets of the important map of Turkey, 1:200,000, that is much more complete than the set to be found at ARIT in Ankara. On the other hand, ARIT in Ankara has a map of Greece which is not to be found in Athens. Another very interesting plan of Athens, showing the areas of the city to be expropriated for archaeological purposes is to be found in Jerusalem at AIAR. The set of Napoleon’s Description of Egypt in ARCE in Cairo can be consulted by scholars also interested in Palestine and Syria. The collections of the American Legation Museum in Tangier and CEMAT in Tunis make up for the fact that ARCE in Cairo does not have any maps of North Africa. The fact of this interdependence, revealed by the map inventory, has been one of the great satisfactions in carrying out this survey.

The inventory was carried out using Microsoft Access. The basic fields employed include: map title, edition, author, publisher/printer, place, date, extent of item, dimensions, scale, location and local call number. In addition a field was created for notes which allowed the compiler to include material of interest to a researcher in historical cartography. The database is in two sections: one for individual map items and one for books or albums that contain maps. These two sections are linked, allowing for the identification of all the maps in a particular atlas or book of travels. The inventory is now being adapted to MARC records (the system used by the Library of Congress) and should be fully accessible on the web in the near future.

The exhibition which follows provides images of maps, together with notes, from the various research centers. These give some indication of the wide range and richness of the cartographic materials held by the American overseas research centers.

Please note that PDF versions of the maps, located on the individual map pages, will allow you to zoom in on some of the rich detail. These PDFs can be viewed with a copy of Adobe Reader. You can download a copy of Adobe Reader at http://get.adobe.com/reader/. Many maps are provided only as samples of of maps at the American overseas research centers. If you need reference quality images, please contact the holding library at the center directly.