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Measuring & Mapping

Vernier Compass

Where, how far, and how much? People have invented an astonishing array of devices to answer seemingly simple questions like these. Measuring and mapping objects in the Museum's collections include the instruments of the famous—Thomas Jefferson's thermometer and a pocket compass used by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition across the American West. A timing device was part of the pioneering motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge in the late 1800s. Time measurement is represented in clocks from simple sundials to precise chronometers for mapping, surveying, and finding longitude. Everyday objects tell part of the story, too, from tape measures and electrical meters to more than 300 scales to measure food and drink. Maps of many kinds fill out the collections, from railroad surveys to star charts.