Argon to preserve mysterious map


One of the most remarkable geographical maps in existence and a landmark piece of history is ready to go on public display at the Library of Congress in the US, with a little bit of help from one of the industrial gases.

The only surviving copy of the 500-year-old, 1507 Waldseemuller map that first used the name America goes on permanent display on 13th December, mounted in a 6 foot by 9.5 foot display case machined from a single block of aluminium. The case will be filled with inert argon gas, which typically comprises just 1% of the air, to prevent deterioration of the fragile and precious document.

The 12 sheets that make up the actual map itself were purchased from German Prince Johannes Waldburg-Wolfegg for $10m in 2003, with researchers hopeful that putting the rarely shown map on permanent display for the first time since it was discovered in 1901, may stimulate interest in finding out more about the documents used to produce it.

Something of a mystery to most, the map was created by German monk Martin Waldseemuller and is stunningly accurate and surprisingly modern – despite historical evidence suggesting that Europeans knew extremely little of the Americas region or the world at that time.

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