Woodland – How a Vintage Map Became a Wall Mural

March 02, 2016

Let’s go on a treasure hunt

Did you know that our design Woodland is a real map of the state of New Mexico, USA? At first sight, it seems green and vibrant – but, believe it or not, it hasn't seen the light of day for a long, long time…

The story begins with an order from the U.S. Secretary of War. That was in 1872, and the U.S. was served by President Ulysses S. Grant. After the order was accepted it was assigned to a cartographer named G.M. Wheeler and it took him over four years to complete the piece that we now reckon as “Woodland”.

To make these historical maps, the cartographers had to understand their surroundings. To do this, they often climbed up in trees and even conquered mountains to get a perfect overlook. In the 19th century, they also started to use hot air balloons and the first cameras. Without a doubt, it was hard work making these kinds of maps. As we sometimes say; Rome wasn't built in a day. Except for a macro perspective, the makers were also expected to have a keen eye for detail.

How on earth did we find it?

It wasn’t until one sunny day more than 100 years after the map was created, that it fell into the hands of someone who happily unrolled it after it has been stashed away for decades.The lucky man who found it is a friend of ours. He's also the one who gave us permission to turn it into a wonderful wall mural. This friend has a rather peculiar obsession. The “Map Man”, as we like to call him, is the most passionate collector. He started his business over 30 years ago and the purpose of his collection was right from the start to show the public what the world has looked like, and certainly the way our forefathers rendered it. To be able to share his collection, he started to scan the maps to make a digital library. Not as easy as you may think, having 100,000 objects in storage.

In the Map Man's captivating collection you can find vintage maps from every corner of the world. “Woodland”, for example, but also other designs like “Oxford Clay” and “Navigation Lines”; seen in the image above.

Back to our map. It’s showing New Mexico, also known as “the enchanting state”. And we agree that this lush landscape is enchanting – it makes you curious about what’s happening down there in the wild vegetation. The dark green parts are timber, the lighter greens represent grazing and the browns dry and barren areas. The yellow parts in the middle show farming and its irrigation.

What’ve happened in 140 years?

Skärmavbild 2016-02-12 kl. 08.46.07

woodland4What has happened since 1876? A lot. If we take a peek at what this area in New Mexico looks like nowadays via Google Earth, we can see that the large areas of grazing have completely vanished – and been replaced with cities. Parts of the timber forests are still there, but the picture is almost unrecognisable.

15313_f28279723ee69ff5a5d0e62dd532135aWoodland isn’t just a map, it’s a relic – of how green and lush our planet once was. Why not use it as a statement of nature on your wall?