Maps for a Time Traveler On show at Dumfries Museum

The spring exhibition opening on 12 March at Dumfries Museum features a selection of beautiful 18th century estate maps from the Nithsdale area. The maps have been made available for public view by the Dumfries Archival Mapping Project (DAMP). These old maps allow us to see where we have come from. They may be the closest that we can get to time travel.

Members of DAMP have been given to access to maps in public and private collections. Many of these maps are over 200 years old and are very fragile. They are being photographed or scanned to create digital copies. Some of these have been reproduced for the exhibition and are on show alongside 3 original maps. The maps are also being uploaded to the National Library of Scotland web site for even wider public access.

Part of the beauty of old maps is that different people see them differently – historical documents, scientific evidence or works of art. DAMP held five public consultation events in New Abbey, Thornhill, Dumfries, Sanquhar and Annan to help select the maps for the museum exhibition. The chosen maps were then shown to a variety of academic experts. Public feedback and commentary from the academics forms an important part of the display.

The maps show the transition from one type of agriculture to the more enclosed system of fields surrounded by walls and hedges that we see today.

DAMP member Archie McConnel said; “Burns wrote “Rigs o’ Barley” in 1783, around the time when many of these were drawn. Rigs were a feature of the landscape that had slowly begun to change. The landscape of the larger estates was being mapped in order to plan future changes. The basis of today’s landscape has changed little but tree planting and modern roads now cloak once bare hills and muddy tracks. With the help of these early maps we can imagine the landscape Burns saw.”

This selection of maps also documents road building to New Abbey and the industrial landscape of Wanlockhead. Changes in the 18th century landscape were also being driven by developments in trade and industry and the need for new improved roads.

These hand drawn pre-Ordnance Survey maps show off a level of skill and accuracy that still amazes us now. Compared to a current satellite image of Eliock Estate, the 1767 map of 2400 hectares of hilly terrain, surveyed using basic tools, is accurate to 5 metres.

Councillor Tom McAughtrie, Chair of Customer and Community Services, said: “It is excellent news that a community group has formed to take forward the digitisation of these fascinating maps and make them available for everyone to see.”

Archie McConnel will give a presentation about the maps and the Dumfries Archival Mapping Project at Dumfries Museum at 6.30pm on Thursday 17 March – all welcome. This is a free event but please phone Dumfries Museum on 01387 253374 to reserve a place.

Family activities will also be available in the museum gallery during normal opening house throughout the exhibition. These include a treasure map trail, learning about map symbols, colouring sheets and quizzes.

Main Photo – Dumfriesshire Archival Mapping Project member Archie McConnel with one of the original 18th century maps on display in the exhibition at Dumfries Museum.


Dumfries Archival Mapping Project

The Dumfries Archival Mapping Project (DAMP) began in 2012 as an informal group of people interested in old maps, particularly the unique hand-drawn estate maps of the 18th and early 19th centuries, prepared before the Ordnance Survey. Much to the group’s delight, they discovered that many others had a similar interest and that most map owners were happy to share their maps. An inaugural public meeting was held in 2013 and a Board was formed to seek funding and expertise to carry the project forward.

To make the mostly privately owned maps as widely available as possible, whilst at the same time protecting the irreplaceable originals, DAMP makes high quality digital copies and displays them online. Where possible old maps are overlaid with modern maps and aerial photographs, through a process called geo-referencing, enabling accurate study of changes in the landscape over time.

So far, thanks entirely to the generous financial support of DAMP members, the hard work of numerous volunteers, and the valuable support of several national and local experts, more than 200 maps have been copied and many of these geo-referenced. They are gradually being made available online.

Initially work was concentrated in Nithsdale, but has been expanded into Annandale. In the future it is hoped to include maps from Eskdale and Galloway. DAMP believes that there are at least 2000 pre-1850 maps still in existence in Dumfries and Galloway.

To maps scanned by DAMP are being hosted on the National Library of Scotland web site. You can view these, and other old maps, online at www.nls.org/maps.

The Exhibition
This exhibition consists of a number of maps, together with a varied selection of opinions from the public and from the following subject specialists:

Dr Valentina Bold, Reader (School of Interdisciplinary Studies), University of Glasgow
Chris Fleet, Map Curator, National Library of Scotland
Dr Kirsteen Mulhern, Archivist, National Records of Scotland
Thomas Muller, PhD Student, University of Glasgow
Professor David Munro
Andrew Nicholson, Archaeologist, Dumfries and Galloway Council
Graham Roberts, Archivist, Dumfries and Galloway Council Archives

Many thanks to all owners who have allowed DAMP to copy their maps:
Buccleuch Estates
Annandale Estates
Dumfries and Galloway Archives
Peter Landale
Richard Gladwin
Robert Greenshields
Francis Maxwell

If you would like to become a member of DAMP to support future work you can find out more information by visiting www.damproject.org.

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