In New Position, Frey to Guide Classes to Useful Applications of Ancient Maps

Starting next fall, classes will venture to the Addison Gallery of American Art to explore not an exhibit of paintings but an archive of ancient navigational charts under the supervision of Emma Frey, Instructor in History and Andover’s first Geographer-at-Large.

Sidney Knafel ’48, Ex-Officio Trustee, donated the 150-piece collection of maps, atlases and globes, some dating back to the 15th century, after announcing his resignation from the Board of Trustee of November 4. He also provided funding to establish the position of Geographer-at-Large.

Frey will oversee the use of maps and work to enable classes to engage with the collection. “The [Geographer-at-Large] gets to figure out how to integrate the [maps] into the curriculum and the lessons teachers are designing and find ways to get them used by students,” she said.

Christopher Shaw, Instructor and Chair in History, Temba Maqubela, Dean of Faculty, and John Rogers, Dean of Studies, selected Frey for the position this fall. She will spend three years working as the Geographer-at-Large.

Frey believes that the vast collection will be particularly useful in the History, Art and Science Departments. For example, Frey said that a history class could use relevant maps and charts as primary sources to enhance students’ understanding of the historical context. An art class could view illustrated maps to see how three-dimensional landscapes can be translated onto a two-dimensional canvas.

“In addition to being applicable for history classes who are studying those cultures or those time periods, [the maps] can also be applicable to classes that are studying cultural interactions, such as be English classes or Philosophy classes,” said Jamie Kaplowitz, Education Associate and Museum Learning Specialist at the Addison.

“The visual information [in maps] speaks to the perspective of the person creating the map and what that person’s understanding of the culture and the location that they’re documenting might be,” added Kaplowitz.

Frey plans to match specific documents in the collection with the curricula of different courses and show the instructors how they might integrate these documents into their classes.

Although she is not positive how the collection will be exhibited at the Addison, Frey hopes to have some of the maps, or their copies, displayed in Samuel Phillips Hall or the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library.

“It’s a big job to figure out which [maps] will be our ‘greatest hits’ that everybody should try to see,” said Frey.

The maps will be catalogued and digitized to increase their accessibility. Frey hopes to make scans of maps and charts available online as a resource for teachers.

Many of the maps are colonial maps of New England and are printed in a variety of languages on them including Latin, Italian and German. Some of the oldest maps in the collection are from the 1400s.

Frey said, “[Though specifics of the responsibilities are] a little bit unknown right now, it’s a question of what you would dream about and what is possible and matching the two together.”