Students will now be able to pore over 500-year-old navigational charts in the globe and map collection donated by Sidney Knafel ’48, Ex- Officio Trustee.
Knafel, who announced his retirement from the board at the Trustees Meeting on November 4, left his valuable archive of maps, globes and atlases to the Addison Gallery. He also donated funding for the permanent faculty position of a “geographer at large” at the school.
“[The geographer-at-large] can link up specific courses and specific teachers with specific artifacts and create a pattern of flow so that we can get kids and these documents together in a meaningful way within the curriculum,” said Shaw.
“That person would bring the knowledge of how important the maps are, themselves and how they could be integrated into the curriculum. That’s why it would be important to have [him or her] be a regular teacher,” he continued.
“It is my hope that the perspective the students gain from this visual exposure to the curiosity and courage which revealed the world to all will strengthen the depth of their growing leadership skills so that they will better the world as they go forth,” said Knafel in his speech on Friday November 4.
Knafel’s collection, coveted by collectors and several universities, contains rare original maps and globes dating back to the 15th century.
The exact size of the collection is still unknown because it has yet to be completely cataloged, but the collection includes several notable pieces. The book “Shedding the Veil,” which examines the history of European exploration, features over 65 pieces from Knafel’s extensive collection.
Knafel’s collection include a range of different maps including figurative or interpretative color plates and navigation maps. Many offer early European depictions of American geography.
“[The content of the maps] are all stuff that we already talk about in History 100 and 200 and 300, but with this treasure trove it’s just going to be incredible to be able to demonstrate this and have kids actually work directly with the real thing—a 500 year old map, for example,” said Christopher Shaw, Instructor and Chair of the Department of History.
“Geography not just being the map of a place, but also representing a conceptual perception of the world and how that shifts over time,” said Shaw.
In addition to his collection, Knafel contributed funding to establish the faculty position of a “geographer-at-large.” The geographer-at-large, most likely a member of Andover’s History Department, would steward the collection and integrate it into class curricula.
The collection will be housed in the Addison Gallery of American Art. A large portion of the collection will arrive within the next eighteen months after Knafel arranges a professional cataloging.
“[The gift] is a combination of his deep affection for the Academy and his respect for what we will do with [the collection]. This won’t get swallowed up in some university archive, this is so exciting to us that we’re going to pay a lot of attention to it and really make good use of it,” said Shaw.