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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Mapping The National Parks

[Detail] The Grand Canyon. Clarence E. Dutton, 1882.

5) Symbolism

Several of the maps contain symbolic drawings, often surrounding the key or title, providing an opportunity to work with visual symbolism. Many of these maps are the oldest in the collection and may be accessed by searching early. Examine these drawings as a class and consider the following questions:

  • What is the subject of the drawing? If there are people, who are they? Where are they? What are they doing?
  • Does the drawing tell a story? Does it depict an event? An idea?
  • What does the drawing add to the map? Why would a cartographer include this subject on this map? How does the drawing relate to the land being depicted? How does it relate to those who might have commissioned, made, or used the map?
  • Who do you think was the map's audience? What would this audience have thought of the drawing?
  • What do you think was the purpose of the map? How does the drawing relate to that purpose? Does the drawing serve any other purposes?
  • Why aren't drawings included in maps today? What does this suggest about how people think of maps today? What does this suggest about how people used to think of maps?

Some of these drawings include graphic material and ought to be used with older students at a teacher's discretion. Younger students may study symbolism using the map on the right.

This map represents the cartograher's perspective of the United States. Have students consider the following questions:

  • Why did the cartographer choose to use the image of an eagle? How would viewers of the map respond to this image? Is it an image of strength?
  • What were the political, economic and social issues at the time the map was published?
  • What message does the cartographer's interpretation of the country depict?