The circumnavigation by Ferdinand Magellan, Sebastián Elcano, and their crews (1519-22) opened a maritime passageway that would come to be called the Strait of Magellan: a seafaring route that for the first time would connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through European navigation. This passage proved crucial for enabling global trade, and soon attracted the interest of other European explorers and their sponsors.

On the five hundredth anniversary of Magellan's circumnavigation, this exhibition explores the textual, material, and imaginative elements connected to centuries of navigation, mapmaking, and encounters between distinctive human and non-human realities that populated this narrow but expansive gateway to new worlds. The Strait of Magellan became the object of inter-imperial competition, boosted European imagination of unsuspected riches, and stimulated the production of scientific knowledge, changing relationsbetween the region’s indigenous inhabitants and the outside world.


This exhibition was curated by 2018-2019 JCB Fellows Beatriz Marín-Aguilera, Elizabeth Montañez-Sanabria, and Fabrício Prado, with assistance from Bertie Mandelblatt, Curator of Maps and Prints.