The Map and the Territory: 100 Years of Collecting at UCLA

By Dana Binfet

The Map and the Territory: 100 Years of Collecting at UCLA is the Fowler Museum’s newest collaborative exhibition curated in partnership with the Hammer Museum and the UCLA Library. This exhibition showcases works from 13 different collections throughout campus and is an array of diverse objects and images that reflect various geographic regions, time periods and devices in understanding human nature. 

Heading into the closing days of the exhibition, Matthew H. Robb, chief curator of the Fowler, will lead two walk-throughs of the objects selected from the vast collections found in UCLA’s museums, libraries and archives. We spoke with Heather Briston, university archivist and head of curators and collections for UCLA Library Special Collections, to learn more about the exhibition's themes and some of the Library’s contributions.

Why was it important for the UCLA Library to be included in the Fowler exhibition? 
The reason why it was important for the Library to be included is the same reason it was important for all of the other repositories across campus to be included. The point was to showcase the breadth and variety of research collections that have been amassed and are available to support the research and teaching of the campus community, and the broader research and learning of the public. For most people—both off and on campus—they might have some idea of what the Hammer, Fowler and Library have and can do for them, but this was an opportunity to expand their view of what they know about us, but really to expand what they think of when they talk about the learning resources of campus.

The Borders and Beyond section of the exhibition includes historic images of the US and Mexico border taken from UCLA Library Special Collection's Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive. Could you describe what these photos represent and why they were chosen for this exhibit?
The photos depict various border crossings between the US and Mexico along the California border taken in the late 1920s. There is the literal connection to the theme of borders, but in this case we found them also an interesting way to provide perspective on the way that immigration and the movement of people has been viewed over time. As you can see from the images they’re pretty low-key—very different from the highly politicized, policed and militarized view we have of immigration and borders today.

Borders and Beyond focuses on the relationship between borders and the spaces they occupy. Why did the sketch map of the Rancho de San Jose de Buenos Ayres that is held in held in UCLA Library Special Collections make sense for this exhibit?

Here is the collection description: 
When the United States took possession of California and other Mexican lands in 1848, it was bound by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to honor the legitimate land claims of Mexican citizens residing in those captured territories. In order to investigate and confirm titles in California, American officials acquired the provincial records of the Spanish and Mexican governments in Monterey. Those records, most of which were transferred to the U. S. Surveyor General's Office in San Francisco, included land deeds, sketch-maps (diseños), and various other documents. The Land Act of 1851 established a Board of Land Commissioners to review these records and adjudicate claims, and charged the Surveyor General with surveying confirmed land grants. 

As you can see, this worked well with the theme of “borders” since one of the maps depicts the rancho where UCLA is now located. It was a nice way to tie in the book to the present. Sometimes when people view historical materials it can be hard for them to feel a connection with them, but the geographical location provides a way of bridging any disconnect.

In The Beyond there are a collection of images and artifacts that help to capture human exploration into new frontiers. UCLA alumna and astronaut Anna Fisher donated the UCLA banner which traveled with her to outer space. Could you elaborate about the choice to include Fisher’s UCLA banner? 
Well first and foremost it fit very well with the theme—it went to the “beyond” and came back. Also, you can look at it and know what it is without a lot of explanation, and when explained the uniqueness is very clear. As the university archivist, I appreciated the visual UCLA connection and wanted to include that. 

As for the theme itself—over the course of developing the exhibit we initially started out with eight themes, and we realized that would be too much for one exhibit so we had to pare down. (Based on our initial research we could mount at least two or three exhibits!) Beyond happened to be one of those themes that we felt had some of the most visual strong materials, interesting juxtapositions and variety of repositories represented. In developing the exhibit, it was important that the themes that we eventually chose were ones where we could have the broadest participation of repositories across campus. I mean you can’t have Beyond without the Meteorite Gallery! That was another thing that was really important to us—showing the sheer breadth of collections across campus that have been built over time to support the research and teaching of campus. Unlike the museums and the Library, many of these repositories are largely unknown to the public and even the campus community, and we hoped that this exhibit might change that.


The Map and the Territory: 100 Years of Collecting at UCLA runs through Sunday, Oct. 24, with in-person walk-throughs happening this Saturday at 1 and 3 p.m. Space is limited and registration is required.

Top image:E. McD. Johnstone (b. mid-19th century, United States; d. 1895); The Unique Map of California, ca. 1885; lithograph; UCLA Library Special Collections
Middle image:Artist Unknown, Rancho de San Jose de Buenos Ayres, 1852 leather binding, paper, ink, pencil, UCLA Library Special Collections 
Bottom image: Banner, 1984, UCLA Library Special Collections