Ancient maps on display in Canberra

By on 5 November, 2013


A new exhibition, entitled Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia, opens this week at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

This exhibition showcases many of the greatest maps in the world, both new and old, physical and digital, on loan from the Vatican, the British Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice, and others, as well as from some of Australia’s leading cultural institutions. This priceless collection of maps, which inspired the very idea of Australia – have never before been seen together, under the one roof.

Highlights of the exhibition include the magnificent Fra Mauro Map of the World; the remarkable Boke of Idrography presented to Henry VIII; an intricate world map by the Benedictine monk Andreas Walsperger (1448); a fifteenth-century Ptolemy manuscript; magnificent and controversial ‘Dieppe’ charts; one of only four surviving copies of Mercator’s ground-breaking 1569 projection; and original manuscript charts by Pacific navigators including Louis de Freycinet, James Cook and Matthew Flinders.

As a key supporter of the exhibit, Esri Australia has used GIS technology to develop a series of high-tech interactive apps that breathe new life into the maps – providing visitors with access to behind-the-scenes information and historical context to the extraordinary pieces on display.

Some of the mapping technology on-show will include:

  • Behind the Mapping our World Masterpieces
    This interactive touchscreen application gives attendees the ability to explore many of the exhibition’s maps in an incredible level of detail.  Visitors just need to select a map of interest and, at the touch of the screen, they can instantly: access comprehensive information about various locations or points of interest shown on the map; learn more about the history behind the map; and ‘zoom in’ to gain an incredibly detailed and magnified view of the map.
  • Real-Time Flights Around the World Map
    This app draws on the latest GIS technology to reveal the current location of aircraft travelling around the world – in real-time. It tracks and displays air traffic from over 1,970 airports globally – collecting around 250,000 pieces of data records every hour, all in real-time. Visitors will also be able to view historic travel and trade routes – to see just how much travel maps have evolved.
  • From Terra Incognita to Australia
    Journey through the discovery of Australia – as shown in these time-stamped maps from throughout the ages. From the incredibly rare 1663 Dutch map of New Holland (which is often referred to as the ‘birth certificate’ of Australia), to  Captain Cook’s 1770  depiction – this clever tool gives visitors the chance to see each piece of the puzzle for themselves, and understand how Australia came to take shape on the world map.
  • Animation of Flinders’ Voyage Map
    Thanks to this interactive map, you can see first-hand just how accurate Matthew Flinders was when he set out to map Australia in the 1800s. Use a slider to compare Flinders’ final map of Australia in 1814, to the current map of Australia – we think you’ll be surprised by what you discover.
  • Visitors’ Book
    Meet the new-generation of Visitors’ Book – a map that digitally captures attendees’ feedback and shows where from around the world they have travelled to attend the exhibition.

Mapping our World is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see rare and unique cartographic treasures from around the world. Discover how European explorers unravelled the secrets of the great south land.

The exhibition will run from 7 November 2013 to 10 March 2014 at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, ACT.

You can learn more about the exhibition at

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