Old subway maps on display in transit museum’s ‘Navigating New York’ exhibit

A new exhibit at the New York Transit Museum is sure to pique the interest of map enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

The “Navigating New York” exhibit, which opened at the Downtown Brooklyn museum on Thursday, highlights the city’s transit history through the lens of maps dating to the 19th Century.

Before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority launched in 1968, the city’s various subway systems were owned and operated by private companies and each had their own maps and wayfinding materials. Once the state began to pull all of New York City’s bus, subway and rail systems under the MTA umbrella, the need for cohesive mapping quickly became apparent.

Through a collection of transit maps, railroad and ferry routes, biking and walking paths and other materials like guidebooks, the exhibit seeks to highlight the link between the city’s increased development and the interconnectivity of its transit systems, per the New York Transit Museum.

“Navigating New York tells the wonderful story of how maps have been used to passively provide a sense of place, to actively encourage – and many would argue steer – individual transportation choices and to become the canvas from which artists draw inspiration,” museum director Concetta Bencivenga said. “And in so doing, maps reflect the story of how New York, as we know it, came to be.”

The museum also recruited artists – Dahlia Elsayed, Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz, to name a few – who specialize in artistic mapmaking and cartography to display their own conceptualized pieces.

The New York Transit Museum will also host a series of gallery talks and panel discussions related to the exhibit, which runs through Sept. 8, 2019.

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