In my family you fall on one of two sides of the map debate: Either you love looking at maps because they provide you with a clear image of how the world works, where things are, how you get places or how locations relate to each other, or you just think they’re pretty. I think maps are pretty–especially old ones with interesting colors and yellowed edges.
I also love antique maps of cities or early maps of the American west. Besides giving a feeling of character and history, maps can add subtle texture and color to a space as well. And including a map of a place important to you or a client in a design can add a layer of authenticity and charm.
You may remember from my previous post of the bachelor pad that I included two vintage maps from the 1930s on his salon wall. My husband scored a bunch of maps at Cal when the Earth Sciences Department was having a big map sale–all vintage and antique maps were $1. Yesterday I decided to contact the department and see if they were selling anymore maps that I could use in my booth at the flea market in August. Although they aren’t having another sale until October, the map cataloger there couldn’t have been more helpful to me. If you like antique maps too and live near a university, you may want to contact their earth sciences department and see if they are clearing out their map library anytime soon. I don’t think it would occur to most cartographers that interior designers might actually want to purchase their outdated maps to use as art! Acquiring antique maps this way could be a great way to add authentic art to a space without breaking the bank.
Also, if you can’t locate an original, apparently the USGS is in the process of putting all their maps in a digital format and pretty much anyone can download them from the USGS website. (The above images are two antique topographical maps of Yosemite from this site). This includes all their topographical and historical maps of the US. Most have to be purchased but they are only about $10-12 apiece. The search is a little cumbersome and downloading them can take a while but it is a massive database with every location and city you can think of. If there is someplace special to you and your family that you might want to have a keepsake from, you can probably find an antique map of it on the USGS website–and have a lovely piece of art!
You can also find nautical maps for sale at the NOAA website but these are a bit more expensive at about $45 apiece. Still a bargain when compared to buying original art from a gallery.