The Power of Maps -- Exploring the Magic of Maps
The Academy for Lifelong Learning -- Spring 2017




Course Description: 
Maps are found everywhere! Maps don't merely show us where to go (we have New Yorkers to tell us that). In the case of antique maps, they tell us where we've been. As guest speakers from the Rocky Mountain Map Society will demonstrate, these blendings of art, history and belief ("There be dragons here!) have shaped our growth as a people and as a nation. Without the influence of maps, Columbus would not have sailed west, many more prospectors would have gotten lost during the California Gold Rush, and Stanley would not have met Livingston in Africa. But where did their maps come from? We'll answer that and other questions (including how some of the nations in the Eurozone got their shapes) by exploring the history of cartography from Ptolemy to Mercator to the present day. And along the way, we'll come across some very intriguing myths and mistakes.

Your Course Leader: 
Lorraine Sherry [biography] is a long-term member of The Academy and the Rocky Mountain Map Society.

Course Format: 
Enjoy lectures and presentations by members of the Rocky Mountain Map Society with lots of Q/A. This course is NOT focused on being a discussion group. We're here to meet some real experts and enthusiasts, and to see some extremely rare original maps and artifacts.

The class will meet on five Thursday afternoons (February 23 through March 23) from 1:30 to 3:00 PM. The classroom will be assigned after Academy registration has begun. New location: Calvary Baptist Church, 6500 E Girard Ave, Denver (corner of Monaco and Hampden, ½ mile east of I-25.

Learning Objectives: 
Gain an appreciation of antiquarian maps; learn how maps have influenced history and politics; find out how migration, exploration, and conquest changed the shapes of states and nations and understand the fascination of antique maps and other items of cartographic interest.

Class Website: 
You should have access to a computer to view the Class Schedule and Guest Presenter Information on the class website.
The link (below) will take you to the class website.


Class Schedule: 1:30 - 3:00 PM Thursdays

Week 1 -- Feb. 23

Wes Brown
Discovering the New World through Old Maps

Week 2 -- Mar. 2

Wes Brown
How the 1859 Gold Rush put Colorado on the Map

Week 3 -- Mar. 9

Vince Szilagy
Myths, Men and Monsters: Seeking the Source of the Nile

Week 4 -- Mar. 16

John Lindemann
Marie Tharp, Illustrator of a Paradigm: The Earth's Ocean Floors

Week 5 -- Mar. 23

Lorraine Sherry
Lithuania and the Baltic States: Welcome to the Eurozone!



Guest Presenter Information

Guest Speaker
Photo and Affiliations


Presentation Title and Abstract
Speaker Biography


Wes Brown
Founder, Rocky Mountain Map Society
Co-Founder, St. Charles Capital


Discovering the New World through Old Maps

Through the study of maps, Wes Brown will investigate man’s conception of the shape of the Earth through history and will give particular focus to the discovery of the New World. This general survey will begin with Homer in the 8th century B.C. and will end with Sebastian Münster in the middle of the 16th century. The talk will be illustrated with slides of original antique maps from his own collection, printed between 1472 and 1540.

Wes Brown has been a collector, student, and author of old maps for over thirty years. He confines his map collecting to two areas: (1) the earliest world maps up to the year 1540 and (2) the exploration and settlement of Colorado from the 16th through 20th centuries. A Denver resident, he co-founded the Rocky Mountain Map Society in 1990 and served as its President for its first seven years. He has served as the Co-Chairman of the Philip Lee Phillips Society (the national map and geography society of the Library of Congress). He has served on the Council of the Society for the History of Discoveries.


Wes Brown
Founder, Rocky Mountain Map Society
Co-Founder, St. Charles Capital


How the 1859 Gold Rush put Colorado on the Map

In the spring of 1858, Colorado's Front Range area was uncharted and inhabited only by natives. But by the close of 1859, 100,000 fortune seekers had thoroughly explored the Front Range, north of Pueblo to the Wyoming border. In their quest for gold, they left their footprints on the landscape, establishing dozens of settlements and blazing numerous trails. This slide show and lecture will teach you about Colorado’s gold rush and how this important chapter of history influenced Colorado maps of today.

Note: Image of map from Wes Brown's personal collection.


John Lindemann
Senior Fellow
Geological Society of America
Member, Rocky Mountain Map Society


Marie Tharp, Ilustrator of a Paradigm: The Earth's Ocean Floors

Marie Tharp's 1977 image of the world's ocean floor presented a view that earth scientists had never seen before - Earth with all of its oceans drained. Tharp's image that evolved along with plate tectonic thought provided the graphic syhtnesis that made plate tectonic theory the new reality. Her meticulous attention to detail, her tenacity of purpose, her geologic sense, and her artistic eye was made mainfest by her near-iconic ocean floor image. John will discuss Tharp's life, her scientific pursuits, and her professional growth as one of the most esteemed woman cartographers of the 20th century.

John Lindemann has been a professional geologist since his graduation from the Colorado School of Mines in the mid-1960’s. His experience in ore-deposit geology is world-wide. John is a Senior Fellow of the Geological Society of America and maintains professional registration through the American Association of Professional Geologists.


Vince Szilagyi
Map Enthusiast and Member,
Rocky Mountain Map Society


Myths, Men and Monsters: Seeking the Source of the Nile

Since the beginning of recorded time, the source of the World's greatest river, the Nile, was shrouded in mystery. Legends sprung up that the Nile began at the feet of a mountain range so high it scraped the Moon, and so far away it could never be reached. It was not until the 1800s that explorers finally reached the headwaters of the Nile, and the story of what they found and how they got there is as intriguing and engaging a story as any in the history of exploration.

Vincent graduated from the University of Denver in 2013 with Degrees in History, Political Science and Geography. His senior thesis concerned the mapping of Central Africa and the Nile River in the 1850s to 1870s and the impacts this had on the nascent academic disciplines of Geography and Geology. After graduating, Vincent indulged his passion for maps by working at the Philadelphia Print Shop West in Cherry Creek, one of the Nation's premier antique map and print galleries. He now works as an Research Archivist at the Cable Center in Denver, Colorado.


Lorraine Sherry
Secretary, Rocky Mountain Map Society
Academy for Lifelong Learning


Lithuania and the Baltic States:
Welcome to NATO and the Euro Zone

After centuries of occupation by Russia, Prussia and Poland, the tiny nation of Lithuania - once the largest nation in Eastern Europe in the 14th century - finally gained her independence in 1991 and joined NATO in 2004. But even after creating a stable democratic republic and a viable economic system, the threat of Russian aggression still looms large in the minds of her people. What makes this little country strategically located? What are its history, its culture, and its aspirations? And why should we care about it? Lorraine will answer some of these questions using both new and antique maps.

Lorraine is a third generation Lithuanian-American. She has her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado along with Master's degrees in physics, technology and education. Besides being a volunteer course leader at The Academy, Lorraine is the Secretary of the Rocky Mountain Map Society. She collects maps of Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, and Russia.


Recommended Readings and Interesting Websites

  • Wilford, J.N. (2000). The Mapmakers [Revised Edition]. NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
    This is one of my favorite map-related books.

  • The Allure of the Map
    A delightful essay from the New Yorker to provoke your imagination.

  • Americans and Brits label maps of Europe and USA
    What our students know (and don't know) about world geography - and should know!

  • 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World
    Hopefully some of these maps will surprise you and you’ll learn something new. A few are important to know, some interpret and display data in a beautiful or creative way, and a few may even make you laugh out loud.

  • Digital Globe's Gallery of Satellite Maps
    Awesome satellite imagery of natural and man-made disasters, in extreme high-definition photos.

  • The Pig War
    If it weren't so funny, I wouldn't have included it - but this article illustrates how important good maps are in order to define the boundaries between two warring countries - in this case, the pre-Civil War USA and The British Empire (and Canada). All ado about a pig! Yes, it really happened...

About the Rocky Mountain Map Society (RMMS)

The Rocky Mountain Map Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and appreciation of maps, cartographic history, the history of exploration and discovery, maps as art, collecting antique maps, and other areas of cartographic interest. Public outreach by the Society to provide education in maps and history is performed by providing speakers, exhibits, and instruction to its members as well as to public schools, adult education programs, museums, and other outside forums. It has also co-sponsored with the Denver Public Library several Antique Map Fairs with lectures and dealer displays from around the world. The Society is a founding member of the Council of North American Map Societies and works closely with the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress. Recognized internationally, the Society hosted the 2001 Annual Meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries, the 2005 Conference of the International Map Collectors Society, and in 2012, an international conference titled "The Mapping of North America: The Westward Expansion" with the Texas Map Society and the University of Denver. The Society was formed in 1991 and is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. More information can be found on the Society's website,

Dr. Lorraine Sherry
Course Leader: The Academy for Lifelong Learning
The Power of Maps: Spring Term 2017
Website updated January 7, 2017
E-mail Lorraine Sherry