Unfolding the Map is a celebration of New Zealand cartography. It starts with the oral cartographies of early Polynesian navigators and pre-European Maori (Polynesian navigators were criss-crossing the Pacific a couple of hundred years before Columbus ventured west across the Atlantic). It includes early print maps from the 17th and 18th centuries and traces the print cartography of New Zealand through to the present day. New Zealand is, as you are probably aware, one of the most recently settled countries on earth. The historic and contemporary print maps on display are drawn mostly from Archives New Zealand and the library’s Alexander Turnbull Collection. They fall into one of five categories:

  • Coastal charting
  • Surveying and the Cadastre
  • Resources and Environment
  • Topographic Mapping
  • Recreation and Tourism

There is a section of the exhibition devoted to the art and science of cartography and the cartographic process. This also looks at how technology has periodically revolutionised map-making and given rise to or changed the face of other geographical information sciences like geodesy and remote sensing.

Digital cartography is also explored using a mix of projected dynamic map content, video, and ipads with access to interactive storymaps and selected webmapping applications. A separate area is devoted to telling the stories behind some of New Zealand’s more evocative place names. And lastly there is a giant floor map of New Zealand, and an interactive world map for children.

The exhibition started in October 2015 and continues to August 2016, which coincides with the International Map Year. It has been curated by Roger Smith from the Wellington-based cartographic design company Geographx.

There is a parallel programme of public events including a lecture series focusing on map-related topics. There is also an educational outreach programme targeted at New Zealand schools.

Please find all details at natlib.govt.nz.


geological sketch map

Image of a geological sketch map compiled by James Hector, Director of the NZ Geological Survey in 1873. This map was prepared specially for the International Vienna Exhibition in 1873. The cartography is by Augustus Koch.

The Tuki map

The Tuki map – this is the earliest known drawn map by Maori. Tuki was the son of a tohunga, or priest, one of two young Māori kidnapped in 1793 off the Cavalli Islands and taken to Norfolk Island to teach convicts how to dress flax. The map was drawn in 1793 for the lieutenant-governor of Norfolk Island, Philip King.