The Magill Library on the campus of is an idyllic place to spend a few quiet hours, especially in the dead of winter.
An intimate Gothic Revival building, its dark woods, cathedral ceilings, marble fireplaces and other classic library touches are nicely accented by soaring arched windows—especially in my favorite part of the library, the north wing, dedicated to the memory of one William Pyle Philips (class of 1902).
When I’m there, I have a heightened awareness of the campus, the building I’m in, and even whatever room I’m working in. Put another way, I am fully present, enjoying the experience of being there, whether I’m having an otherwise fine day or not.
Which is sort of the point of “You Are Here,” a somewhat interactive exhibit in the library’s small Sharpless Gallery, which began in October and runs through Feb. 10. Its goal is “Exploring the contours of our academic community through maps,” and it does just that: through historical and rare maps under glass (framed on walls or in display cases), and through less traditional, highly creative means.
“Maps may represent the geography of land and sea,” reads the description of the exhibit on the school’s web site. “Or they may act as a model of concepts, philosophies or ideas. One map helps us travel from one place to the next. Another allows us to represent and understand something entirely new. Some maps evoke nostalgia, while others allow us to plan ahead.”
One map is a simple aerial photograph of the H.C. campus, along with a request, some pieces of paper, pens and pins. Since it was hung, it has been impaled scores of times by students, marking the spots where their lives were lived during the past few years at the school.
A few samplings:
“My first date was skating on the duck pond and a cup of cocoa afterwards 1978.”
“Spilled popcorn all over the place and no, that’s not a euphemism.”
“I spent two hours here, throwing a boomerang I had built. Can’t remember if I felt lonely or not.”
“Looked at the stars and the moon and told stories about guys and girls and dishwashing and I wondered how I got in such a great spot.”
Some are much more personal, if you know what I mean.
“Maps have been the inspiration of personal creativity, and they have been the product of that creativity,” the site says. “Often a map says as much about the mapmaker as anything else.
“The maps in this exhibition—selected and interpreted by members of the Haverford community—reflect something of those who chose them. And together they constitute a certain geography of our community, bringing into relief relationships between our scholarly pursuits, our personal interests, and even our creative styles.”
The Magill Library, with a Quaker & Special Collections room, is generously open to the public, but you must sign in. In general, only students, staff and faculty may check out books and other materials.