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Geography, History and Art Meet at MCCC Gallery


West Windsor, N.J. – The close partnership between the college and the county of Mercer was on display when the MCCC Gallery hosted “Mapping Mercer,” an exhibit that used historical maps, birds-eye views, and other map-related materials to examine some of Mercer County’s illustrious history.  “Mapping Mercer,” featured at the Gallery for one month during January and February, served as the kick-off for the county’s year-long 175th anniversary celebration.

Fifteen New Jersey and Mercer County maps, including some which had never been on public display before, along with 11 municipal maps from an 1875 atlas of Mercer County, were included. The oldest map, created by Lewis Evans for Parliament, dated from 1749.

New maps created by Kathleen Sar, the County’s current mapmaker, were also in the exhibit. Two offered comparisons with the massive hand-painted 1930s maps created for the County’s original Master Plan. Another mapped the area’s oldest settlements (pre-1800s), and yet another showed the newest configuration of Mercer County, with the merger of the two Princetons.

Other items included 20th century drafting tools, an original copy of the Mercer County Master Plan of 1931, and an early Road Returns book for the county with the earliest, hand-written entries dating from shortly after Mercer became a county.

One Gallery room included historic photographs, aerial photos, blueprints, vintage maps and an interactive RT Viewer to map County Route 579, one of the region’s oldest roads. The road, which winds from Sullivan Way in Trenton through Ewing and Hopewell Townships, originated as a Native American pathway and was used by George Washington’s men during their march to the Battle of Trenton. An 1849 map of Mercer County, the first map completed after the county's formation in 1838, was very popular with students and local visitors who were excited to discover the early inhabitants of their properties. Other interactive stations allowed visitors to look at historic Sanborn insurance maps online and to use a light table to view a 1990 map made with chartpak.

Another room displayed Victorian-era maps. Detailed maps of Mercer County municipalities from 1875 were hung alongside panoramic maps of Hightstown, Trenton, and Hopewell from the late 1800s and two elaborate 1910 pictorial campus maps of Lawrenceville School and Princeton University. 

The maps and materials were graciously on loan to the college from the County of Mercer, as well as from the Hightstown Library, Sally Lane and Sam Graff, and Paul Smith of Framesmith Gallery in Princeton.

The show also included two Gallery Talks that were open to the public. The first, entitled "Planning, Mapping and Engineering Today," was presented by Donna Lewis, director of the County’s Planning Division, Kathleen Sar, principal drafting technician (mapmaker) for the County, and Paul Pogorzelski, Hopewell Township's administrator/engineer. The speakers described the intricacies involved in modern map making and noted the important role of technology in creating visual documents that add significantly to the planning process.  They compared today’s complex maps to those of former times, when paper road maps were modified by hand or, later, with specially designed chartpak™ elements.

The second talk featured Maxine Lurie, Ph.D., history professor at Seton Hall University, and Michael Siegel, instructor and cartographer at Rutgers University, co-authors of the book Mapping New Jersey: An Evolving Landscape. In a PowerPoint presentation, they traced New Jersey’s history, using both historic maps and creative thematic maps created by Siegel, in categories such as land use, demography and transportation. The authors shared some of the many stories explored with those maps: the fact that the state’s transportation maps once marked trolley lines, canals, and back roads, the changing coastline of Cape May Point, and the fact that 75 New Jerseys could fit into the land mass of Alaska and the entire population of Alaska could fit into Essex County, NJ, with room left over.

Observed Siegel, “Thematic mapping tries to tell a story, to interpret, explain and show patterns.” Lurie agreed, noting, “The point of mapping is to visualize what cannot be seen in numbers and charts.”

According to Gallery Director Tricia Fagan, the response to this exhibit was very positive. “It was exciting to talk with students about this exhibit. They’d wander in saying that they didn’t really like maps. Then they’d notice that Mercer County was missing on the 1835 Thomas Gordon map and ask why it wasn’t there. Soon they’d be studying their town’s 1875 maps, asking terrific questions and bringing their friends back to visit. We also had great turnouts for both Gallery talks, with many history lovers visiting the campus for the first time.   It was so valuable to be able to work with County staff and local historians in pulling this exhibit together.”

The college is working with the County to get the exhibition maps and related research, online. The County’s 175th anniversary continues throughout 2013. For more events and activities visit http://www.mercer175.org.

County artistst are currently exhibiting their work at the Gallery in "Mercer County Artists 2013" through April 4. The Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony takes place March 13 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Read more about the exhibit here.

Pictured at the Opening Reception are, from left, County Executive Brian Hughes, MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue and Vice Chair of the Mercer County Freeholders Brian Koontz.
Paul Pogorzelski, Hopewell Township's administrator/engineer, was a featured speaker, along with Donna Lewis, director of the County’s Planning Division. Pogorzelski is pictured with Gallery Director Tricia Fagan.

From left, Gallery Director Tricia Fagan, Michael Siegel, instructor and cartographer at Rutgers University, and Maxine Lurie, Ph.D., history professor at Seton Hall University. Lurie and Siegel presented a talk about their book Mapping New Jersey: An Evolving Landscape.
Visitors look at historic mapping documents.
Many area residents were first-time visitors to the MCCC Gallery to explore the County's mapping history.

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