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Mapping the Holy Land III: Milestones in Modern Mapping of the Holy Land of Israel from the Collection of Risa and Richard Domb

February 17, 2015-June 27, 2015

Location: Kay Merrill Hillman Gallery

Curator: Ariel Tishby

Media: maps

A licensed surveyor and the creator of large-scale maps, Richard A. Domb of London has devoted many years to building a collection which comprises thousands of maps of the Land of Israel, ranging from the early days of topographical mapping to the present day. The maps selected for this exhibition document a period of significant upheaval in the history of Israel. In the early 19th century the country was a neglected and remote area controlled by the crumbling Ottoman Empire: sparsely populated and undeveloped, its agriculture was traditional, its roads were few and faulty, and its corrupt government could not sufficiently protect its inhabitants.
Until the 19th century, Palestine was viewed primarily as the "Holy Land," the site of the dramatic events of the Bible. Napoleon's invasion of the region in 1799 marked the beginning of a new era in the topographical mapping of Palestine; the Egyptian control of the region (1831–39) and the following Crimean War (waged between the Great Powers from 1853–56) made the "Oriental Question" a central issue in the Imperialist enterprise. The Ottoman Empire began to grant rights to citizens of the Great Powers, allowing them to establish foreign consulates; pilgrimages and missionary activities began, and the world rediscovered the strategic value of the region, owing to its location between continents; its potential as a route to India; and its proximity to the Suez Canal, which was inaugurated in 1869.
The maps on display here offer highly significant geographical and historical documentation, illustrating the complex relationship between a geographical space and formative historical processes. The exhibition includes maps created during the British Mandate, whose 30 years of rule shaped the borders of Western Palestine and intensified the political and national struggle between the Jewish and Arab inhabitants of the region, a conflict which continues to this day.
This display – in honor of the reception of the Domb Collection – also includes a map and a book marking a century since the First World War; it was only after the war that the country was redefined as a separate geo-political unit with clearly marked borders, intended to become a Jewish national homeland. The collection also contains a large reference library housing travel books, atlases, and albums from the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection has greatly enhanced the Norman Bier Section for Maps of the Holy Land, and only a small fraction of its rich holdings are on display here.

After Pierre Jacotin, and other geographers of the Eastern Army
Topographical Map of Palestine
Hand-colored zincography dissected to 20 sections and mounted on linen,
Ph. Vandermaelen, Geographical Establishment, Brussels, 1847