Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line

British Library

4 Nov 2016 – 1 Mar 2017

£6 with National Art Pass (standard entry £12)

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Exploring how maps made the world in which we live.

In the age of advanced mapping technology, street view and handheld GPS location tracking, it has become easier to map our every move and more difficult to disappear. This exhibition explores the history of the 20th century through maps, drawing on powerful examples from the British Library’s cartography collections. It includes exhibits ranging from the first map of the Hundred Acre Wood to spy maps.

The exhibition also charts how maps left the hands of the few and became everyday objects for the first time in the 20th century. From the London A-Z, created out of a need for newcomers to navigate the city conveniently thanks to a wave of mass immigration in the early 20th century, to lesser-known political pocket atlases like the ‘Plebs Atlas’.

Don't miss

Ministry of Defence maps are on public display for the first time. The maps were used as part of official college exams in the 1950s and 1960s. They show fictional scenarios such as a nuclear explosion fall-out in Scotland and southern England reimagined as a battlefield, reflecting the political uncertainties of the 20th century.

Venue information

Opening times

Main building

Mon – Thu, 9.30am – 8pm

Fri, 9.30am –​6pm (Sat until 5pm)

​Sun, 11am-5pm

Treasures Gallery and PACCAR exhibitions

Tue –Thu, 9.30am-8pm, Mon & Fri until 6pm, Sat until 5pm, Sun 11am – 5pm

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)