The Borderwork(s) lab’s Empire Maps Back (the original title) collaborative project began in 2011 with one professor and a handful of students. The original idea was to develop a digital British Empire using maps from different colonial cities. While the project never came to fruition, we were left with a core group of dedicated students and a plan.
At the beginning of the 2012 semester, both the Duke University Perkins Library and the Nasher Museum of Art had openings for student-curated exhibits and we jumped at the chance. In one semester, the lab went from three students to ten and from zero to exhibit. Mapping the City: A Stranger’s Guide went on display in January, 2013. It was a successful project, but also a learning process, giving us opportunities to recognize our mistakes and instances that would require greater efficiency in order to function on a higher level, which we would need for our next undertaking.
Defining Lines is the product of a semester of brainstorming, research, teamwork, and coffee, culminating in Fall 2013. Almost a year before, two members of the original Borderworks team took a trip to the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University to attend a conference centered on an exhibition that we knew little about, Lines of Control. The exhibition was scheduled to travel to Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art in a little over a year, the same time that our exhibit was due to show. The themes of partition and colonialism are ones that meshed closely with the original intention of the lab, demonstrating maps as tools of empire. With the impressive cartographic holdings at Rubenstein library, it was an easy decision to align the subject of our exhibition with Lines of Control.
The following year consisted of many evenings locked in our lab space, arguing about which maps would stay and which would go, whether parentheses were alright in our title, and how to best articulate a complicated subject in 120 words or less. Each member of the group probably wrote and rewrote the wall text for their maps enough times to match the length of a final term paper. After many weekly meetings, last minute, crunch deadlines, and rough and rougher drafts, Lines of Control finally made it to the walls of the Nasher.
A lot of thank you’s are in order as this project comes full circle.
None of our selection, research, or final presentation could have taken place without the assistance of the staff at the Franklin Humanities Institute and the librarians at both Perkins Library and Rubenstein Library. We would personally like to thank:
Will Hansen, for dealing with a never ending chain of emails requesting research suggestions and image reproductions.
Meg Brown, for all her hard work on the our first curatorial attempt, The Stranger’s Guide, and for stepping in to save our tails with every major or minor issue that came up throughout this process.
Beth Doyle and all of the folks at the Conservation lab at Perkins. We owe you a big one after that last minutes map disaster that turned into a miracle.
Heidi Madden, for supporting all of our German-related research.
Carson Holloway, for knowing us all by name.
Holly Ackerman, for helping Team Latin America discover that they should be researching Bolivia, rather than Peru, four weeks into the process.
Rubenstein Library Special Collections Staff for not getting too overwhelmed when the BorderWorks army walked through their door every other day.
The Nasher Museum Staff, especially Marianne Wardle and Molly Borati, for guiding us through our first interaction with a major art institution and editing our text many, many times.
Karla Baker and Amy Prior at the Bartholomew Archive for going out of their way to provide us with invaluable research assistance.
John E Bartholomew for allowing us to display his picture of his great grandfather, the cartographer John Bartholomew Jr.
Ulverston Town Council for allowing us to show its image of John Barrow.
Paul Corbett, for helping three wannabe web designers figure everything out.
Chris Chia and Hannah Jacobs, for being the technological and logistical glue that kept everything together.
And of course our bold leader, Philip Stern. Oh and coffee. We owe a great deal to coffee.