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Special Collections Exhibit On Display in Gorgas Library Until February of 2024 

In The Northern Edge of the Gulf of Mexico: Visual Representations of Alabama during the Age of European Exploration and Settlement, c. 1592 – 1819, we tell a story about the history of early Alabama. Contemporary maps will be the medium we use – maps that were produced during this time of European exploration, conquest, and settlement.


Many maps of the time that represent the Gulf of Mexico world include Alabama as one of its northern tips. And like the rest of the Gulf of Mexico region, Alabama at that time was part of the setting for an early European imperial competition. European expeditions attempted to explore, survey, and conquer Alabama (especially the southern coast) in much the same way that they would in other areas of the Caribbean and Latin America. Alabama, and most notably the area that would become Mobile, were part of an interconnected Gulf of Mexico/Atlantic world, and this is represented in many of the contemporary maps.


This will not be a comprehensive history of early Alabama. Instead, we are largely focusing on this specific age of European exploration and settlement, and how Alabama was represented in maps made by Europeans. While many of the maps place Alabama in this larger Gulf of Mexico region, some do not. Those maps were usually included because they contained some important truth (or perceived truth) about early Alabama.


This exhibit includes larger maps on the Pearce Foyer walls with smaller maps (and segments of a “topographical memoir”) in exhibit cases. All maps and sources are housed in the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, part of The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections.

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