An interactive exhibit that combines the history of science with visual design is on display at the University Libraries through November.

University Libraries is hosting the Places & Spaces: Mapping Science exhibit through Nov. 17 on the fourth floor of Newman Library.

The exhibit is a multimedia visual and sensory extravaganza of data visualization and design that consists of more than 100 static and interactive visualizations from the late 15th century to the present. Topics range from Claudius Ptolemy’s Cosmographia World Map to an example of several groundbreaking geospatial concepts and mathematical proofs in a single visualization.

Modern examples include New York City-based artist, Ward Shelley’s “History of Science Fiction”, which traces the literary history of the science fiction genre from its roots to 2011, when the map was first released to the public. The maps serve as fantastic examples of the intersection of art, design, and visualization.   

In addition to science maps, the exhibit features three sets of interactive macroscopes, including a set newly added to the exhibit collection. A macroscope is a software tool that allows viewers to see patterns in both large and small scale, and it also encourages viewers to interact with the exhibit. Visitors to the exhibit can explore these macroscopes through large, multi-touch displays.

The exhibit debuts four new macroscopes:

Additional macroscope sets include "Macroscopes for Interacting with Science" and "Macroscopes for Making Sense of Science."

The exhibit, curated by the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center at Indiana University and created by Katy Börner, a distinguished professor of information science at Indiana, includes more than 100 science maps and a variety of interactive and multimedia elements. These features are meant to to inspire cross-disciplinary discussion on how to best track and communicate scholarly activity and scientific progress on a global scale.

“Hosting this exhibit shows the libraries’ ongoing support for sparking new connections across science and scholarship and for supporting multidisciplinary research,” said Andi Ogier, director of data services for University Libraries. “This exhibit tracks the topography of the research landscape and presents it in a distinctly visual, and beautiful, form that encourages creating knowledge from the consideration of new perspectives. We hope this exhibit will resonate and inspire faculty and students who are engaging across destination areas and strategic growth areas.”

The opening of Places & Spaces coincides with the library’s launch of the Data Visualization Studio, a space on its second floor where students and faculty have access to the latest tools and software in data visualization.

“Maps have proven a timeless means of communicating spatial data visually, in unique and sometimes profound ways,” said Patrick Tomlin, director of learning environments in University Libraries. “Like the exhibit, the mission of our new studio is to highlight the importance of understanding and representing data visually. Through the studio, we aim to make it easier for researchers to hone their skills in data visualization, without necessarily having any previous experience in that area.”

“Whether getting help from staff to prepare a chart for a class presentation or using the studio to run more complex research simulations, we want the studio to be a place where Virginia Tech students can harness the power — and beauty — of visualizing information for themselves,” Tomlin said.

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