• Cokato Public Library is closed for renovations. The library will reopen Thursday, April 24.

Minnesota On The Map Exhibit Documents Pictorial Understanding of State

Minnesota On The Map Exhibit Documents Pictorial Understanding of State

Minnesota sure has changed.

Back in 1850 when a map was created of the Organized Counties of Minnesota, it showed that almost all the state’s white settlers lived in Washington, Ramsey and Benton Counties. Not a highway to be found.

You can see a reproduction of that map and of earlier maps in a display at St. Cloud Public Library. They are fascinating. Some include beautiful illustrations, and as you look you discover details that bring to life the era in which they were created. The focus of the early maps is on the waterways by which people traveled the state. The earliest, a 1683 map by Father Louis Hennepin, is of the Americas, including the Mississippi and St. Anthony Falls, which he was the first white person to see. A map produced just a few years later by the Venetian cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli zooms in on North America, Canada and the Great Lakes. The early maps particularly show the influence of American Indians in determining place names.

The exhibit is called Minnesota on the Map. It illustrates how maps have documented and helped influence our understanding of the state, from early exploration to the present. (The most recent is a satellite image from NASA.)

The exhibit features 23 reproduction maps and atlases, including a video station with commentary. Some are in cases, but the most spectacular ones are part of an eight-panel standing unit that replicates many maps in high resolution. One of the most fun to look at is a map produced by the Come to Minnesota Club in 1947, highlighting Minnesota as a vacation paradise.

Stop by the library and take a little detour to check out the exhibit. It will be up through the summer. You can also find many of these maps and others in Minnesota On The Map: A historical atlas, produced by the Minnesota Historical Society Press and available in the Great River Regional Library collection.

Minnesota on the Map is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans in 2008, administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.