The Map & Atlas Museum of La Jolla takes you on a historical, geographic journey back almost 500 years using rare and antique maps that show us the perception of the world long before the days of satellite images and Google Maps.
The museum is on the courtyard (lower) level of the Merrill Lynch Building; its location in the building is not obvious, but a small sandwich board on the sidewalk gave directions. Once I made my way to the entrance, the assistant director, Roz, welcomed everyone who entered the museum and gave a brief overview of the layout and the history of the collection. She was happy to answer any questions that any of us had.
The maps are presented in galleries sorted by geographic region, so you can study maps of the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. And you really do need to take time to study the maps. Even if you’re not all that interested in the geography or history, each map is a work of art in its own right. The skill, talent, artistry, and craftsmanship that went into creating these treasures is something to be admired, especially considering the technologies available to create them in the 16th–19th centuries.
The museum supports educational programs that connect students with the maps and the history behind them. A geography professor gave his students an assignment to come to the museum to find certain pieces of information in the displays—a sort of geography scavenger hunt. Half a dozen of his students trickled through while I was there, and I overheard one say that she really wasn’t keen on coming there in the first place, but was going to return “for fun” because she found it so interesting. The museum accomplished its educational and inspirational mission that afternoon.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Globe Museum in Vienna, Austria, and the Map & Atlas Museum of La Jolla was, for me, a better experience simply because of the ease of being able to see the maps and books and study them. Like the converted college student, I’ll be back to spend more time in the museum.
What You Need To Know
Location: 7825 Fay Ave Suite LL-A, La Jolla, CA 92037
Wednesdays & Thursdays;
1st and 3rd Saturdays,
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Phone: (855) 653-6277
Tips: You put a map or atlas in front of me and I’m entertained for hours. Just check on me every now and again and toss me some food, and I’ll be okay. My biggest mistake was parking in a one-hour parking spot on Fay Ave.; I could have easily spent much longer there. But that’s me. Even those with a casual interest in maps could spend well over an hour in the museum.
Click to see full-sized photos.
Visited: 19 March 2016