836M is excited to partner with The David Rumsey Map Center and Stanford Libraries on Cosmic Maps, an exhibition that transports visitors to outer space. It showcases a curated selection of print and digital maps from the collection spanning modernity to the present day. 

In line with 836M’s 2024 theme “Beyond Frontiers,” which spotlights artists and thinkers whose work transcends physical, cultural, intellectual, or disciplinary boundaries to produce new ideas and experiences, this exhibition is accompanied by a talk series featuring distinguished guest speakers, covering topics ranging from “galactic cannibalism” to interpreting the history of the cosmos through dance.

Among the speakers are Dr. Gregory Mack, a science program officer focusing on astrophysics at The Kavli Foundation, Dr. Bruce McIntosh, the Director of the University of California Observatories, Dr. Natalie Batalha, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, and Dr. Raja GuhaThakurta, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Speaker Schedule

Thursday, June 20, 6:30-8:30 pm – Talk at 836M with Dr. Gregory Mack
Thursday, June 27, 6:30-8:30 pm
– Talk at 836M with Dr. Bruce McIntosh & Dr. Natalie Batalha
Thursday, July 11, 6:30-8:30 pm – Talk at 836M with Dr. Raja GuhaThakurta

The David Rumsey Map Collection

The David Rumsey Map Collection was started over 35 years ago and contains more than 200,000 maps. The collection focuses on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The collection includes atlases, globes, wall maps, school geographies, pocket maps, books of exploration, maritime charts, and a variety of cartographic materials including pocket, wall, children’s, and manuscript maps. Items range in date from around 1550 to the present.

Digitization of the collection began in 1996 and there are now over 129,000 items online, with new additions added regularly. The site is free and open to the public. Here viewers have access not only to high resolution images of maps that are extensively cataloged, but also to a variety of tools that allow users to compare, analyze, and view items in new and experimental ways.

Maps are uniquely suited to high-resolution scanning because of the large amount of detailed information they contain. In their original form, maps and atlases can be large, delicate, and unwieldy. Digitization increases their accessibility, helps to extend longevity by minimizing handling, and when combined with a robust online catalog, maps can be searched in a variety of ways. The site allows public access to rare maps that had been previously available only to a few.

With Luna Imaging’s LUNA software supporting this virtual library, the maps are experienced in a revolutionary way. Multiple maps from different time periods can be viewed side-by-side. High resolution permits the inspection of detail with the same intimacy of viewing the maps in person, using a magnifying glass. Viewers can also create their own collections of maps that hold particular interest by saving groups of images together. Complete cataloging data accompany each image, enabling in-depth searches of the collection.

The collection is distinguished by American cartography illustrating the country’s history, with its changes in culture and population over time. Close inspection of the maps often reveals the growth and decline of towns, mining excavations, the unfolding of the railroads, and the exploration of the American West by European settlers. The depiction of westward expansion also features locations populated by indigenous peoples, including Indian reservations. The collection also includes European maps of the Americas that were influential to American cartographers. In addition, the collection’s geographical coverage spans the globe, with maps of superlative craftsmanship, historical significance, and beauty. Many maps of other parts of the world appear in different languages, such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Greek, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and braille. Connecting them all is the universal tongue of visual communication.

A more detailed description of the early evolution of the physical collection into the online collection can be found in “State of the Art”, an article that originally appeared in Mercator’s World Magazine. Here, David Rumsey describes his intention in sharing the maps digitally – “When you can see all the maps, globes, charts, atlases and their related materials in one space, as you can in my physical library, you can start to sense how maps grow one from another in time, as one map incorporates the new discoveries of an earlier map, and thus you can visually feel the flow of history over several centuries … I hope to re-create this sense of connection between the maps and history, as well as introducing people to the stunning beauty of these arcane materials that most have never seen.”

David Rumsey has donated his entire physical map collection to Stanford University where it is housed at the David Rumsey Map Center in the Stanford University Library. The Rumsey Map Center is open to the public weekdays from 1-5pm and weekday mornings by appointment. Stanford also archives all of Rumsey’s digital map collection in the Stanford Digital Repository. Rumsey continues to make his collection available online at

Dr. Gregory Mack

Gregory Mack, Ph.D., is a science program officer focusing on astrophysics at The Kavli Foundation, which is a private philanthropic foundation based in Los Angeles that supports astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics research. Prior to joining the foundation, he held roles at the National Academy of Sciences, the American Physical Society (the main professional society for physicists in the US), and the National Science Foundation, all involving work in different aspects of the fields of physics and astronomy.

Prior to his transition to the policy, management, and philanthropic side of science, Dr. Mack was an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, OH, from 2009-2013. Having trained in ballet and modern dance, he also has investigated ways to integrate art and science. At Ohio Wesleyan, he crafted a science talk about the history of the universe which used dancers instead of traditional slides in 2012, and he also co-choreographed and performed a modern dance work inspired by mathematics principles for the Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences in 2015. He was a dancer with Hixon Dance, a modern dance company based in Columbus, Ohio, and has collaborated with the company in the creation of dance works that were inspired by and incorporated physics and astronomy concepts.

Dr. Mack earned his Ph.D. in physics from The Ohio State University in 2008 specializing in theoretical particle astrophysics and cosmology, and for his undergraduate education he received B.A. degrees in physics and astronomy from Ohio Wesleyan.

Dr. Bruce Macintosh

Dr. Bruce Macintosh serves as the Director of University of California Observatories (UCO, the multi-campus research unit that operates and supports UC’s key telescope facilities). Personally, Dr. Macintosh’s research focuses on the study of extrasolar planets, in particular the through direct imaging. This involves blocking, suppressing, and subtracting the light of the bright parent star so that a planet hundreds of thousands of times fainter can be seen and studied in detail. Dr. Macintosh co-led the team that imaged the first extrasolar planets, and was the Principal Investigator of the Gemini Planet Imager – an advanced adaptive optics planet-finder for the Gemini South telescope,. He has been very active in astrophysics science policy, including serving on the Steering Commitee of the 2020 Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Dr. Macintosh believes strongly in making astronomy and physics more inclusive, diverse and supportive.

Dr. Natalie Batalha

Dr. Natalie Batalha has been a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz since 2018. She is an eminent planetary astronomer who served as the scientific lead for NASA’s highly successful Kepler mission, the first mission capable of finding Earth-size planets around other stars, discovering over 2,700 exoplanets and another 2,000 candidates awaiting confirmation. On the Kepler mission, she identified planets that might be able to sustain life and led the analysis that yielded the discovery in 2011 of the first confirmed rocky planet outside our solar system. In 2017, Time magazine named her among the 100 most influential people in the world.


After the Kepler space telescope retired in October 2018, Batalha left NASA to join the faculty at UC Santa Cruz, returning to where she had received her Ph.D. in astrophysics in 1997. She received the UCSC Alumni Achievement Award in 2018 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.


Her research focuses on exploring the diversity of planets in our galaxy, investigating questions of planetary habitability, and searching for evidence of life beyond the solar system.

Dr. Raja GuhaThakurta

Dr. Raja GuhaThakurta
 is a Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California Santa Cruz. He studies the formation and evolution of galaxies large and small, with a focus on the assembly of their dark matter, dynamics of their resolved stellar population, merger history, chemical enrichment, and star formation history. He makes extensive use of the Hubble Space Telescope and Keck telescopes in his research. At the present time, he has over 800 publications (scientific journal articles, conference papers/abstracts, astronomical bulletins, etc).

He is the founder and faculty director of the successful Science Internship Program (SIP), in which high school students are mentored by UCSC researchers and work on cutting-edge STEAM research projects. He also founded two other educational initiatives: (1) StS (Shadow the Scientists), which allows students and educators to eavesdrop via Zoom on scientists while they conduct research, and (2) PyaR (Python and Research), an online computer programming tutorial set in the context of astronomy research. These programs are under the CrEST (Creating Equity in STEAM) umbrella that he started at UCSC.

GuhaThakurta has been appointed a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China from 2022–2025, American Astronomical Society Fellow in 2021, Outstanding Faculty in UCSC’s Physical and Biological Sciences Division in 2020–2021, Raymond and Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecturer at Tel-Aviv University in 2018, and visiting faculty at Google in 2015.

He was awarded the National Research Council of Canada’s Herzberg Memorial Prize and Fellowship in 2001, and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in 1997. He received his Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton University in 1989 and his B.Sc. in Physics from St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata, India in 1983.