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Trench Maps: Military Cartography on the Western Front, 1914-1918 (Gist Gallery Exhibit)

June 19, 2015 - January 23, 2016

When World War I began in August 1914, the European powers considered themselves well-prepared for the conflict. They imagined that improvements in military technology would result in a violent but relatively brief struggle. By the end of 1914, after five months of fighting and an unprecedented scale of slaughter, it was clear that this war was different. In previous conflicts, battles lasted for hours or days, but during World War I, troops held the same entrenched positions for weeks, months, or years.  This led to the development of a new class of military maps - these “trench maps” depicted trenches and other features in remarkable detail, and allowed for the first widespread use of long-range indirect artillery fire.

“Trench Maps: Military Cartography on the Western Front, 1914-1918” features 19 original maps from World War I. The exhibit focuses on the development of trench maps throughout the war and why they were so vital to troops fighting on both sides of the conflict. In addition to the unique maps, artifacts also include artillery ammunition, field equipment, a French artillery uniform and photographs. “Trench Maps” will be on display through January 3, 2016.

 “Trench Maps” is guest curated by James Legg, an archaeologist with the SC Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology. Legg has long had an interest in World War I, and has made many trips to study the battlefields of the Western Front, including Ypres, Arras, the Somme, the Aisne, Champagne, Verdun, and the Vosges Mountains. In recent years he has worked on two archaeological projects in the Argonne Forest, including research on the Sergeant York site and the Lost Battalion battlefield.