In recognition of Maine’s Bicentennial, and in conjunction with our newly launched exhibition, “Mapping Maine: The Land and Its Peoples, 1677-1842,” we are raising funds to conserve historic maps of Maine and beyond to ensure that students and researchers of all ages continue to have access to cartographic resources vital to understanding the history of the world, the nation, the land we now call Maine, and our local communities. When historic maps, atlases, and globes come into our collections (via donations by individuals and organizations or by purchase)—like the 1855 Wall Map of Old Town, Penobscot County, Maine, displayed below—they often arrive in fragile condition due to their age, the nature of the materials, and how they have been used over time. While we protect and store the items in our world-class climate controlled storage facility, many items need conservation in order to be displayed and utilized by our patrons of all ages.
Mapping Maine: The Land and Its Peoples, 1677-1842, an exhibition of maps celebrating Maine’s bicentennial while acknowledging the Wabanaki presence and history in the space that became Maine, opens today at the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education. The online component is here; there is a physical exhibition in the OML’s gallery, but visitors are limited to a maximum of four per one-hour timeslot: details here. Curated by Matthew Edney, the exhibition runs until 31 March 2021.
Harold Osher is formally donating his map collection to the University of Southern Maine, a gift with an estimated value of $100 million, along with a contribution to an endowment to support the collection (USM press release, Portland Press-Herald). Osher and his wife, Peggy (who died last month) donated “their initial collection” to the USM in 1989; the map library named after them opened five years later. The Oshers’ collection comprises more than 5,000 maps, the Osher Map Library comprises more than 60 collections and nearly half a million maps. I’m not entirely clear what’s being donated here: I gather the Osher has had access to the Oshers’ maps for some time, and this is a formal transfer of ownership; or perhaps these are additional maps being transferred from their private collection to the USM. Either way, this has some significance. [Tony Campbell]
Opening today at the Osher Map Library in Portland, Maine and running until 10 March 2018, an exhibition of cartographic art called Go Where the Map Takes You: The Intersection of Cartography and Creativity. “Maps show many versions of our world, for many purposes, but their simplest purpose is to show the way from one place to another. The artists in this exhibition have used the techniques of mapping, and maps themselves, to show the way to the metaphorical and the metaphysical. We invite you to explore these artworks and see where they lead you.” Featuring several familiar artists.
Open now and running through 26 February 2017 at the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Center, Shakespeare’s Here and Everywhere asks “What roles do place, identity and travel play in his comedies, tragedies and histories? Explore these questions and more through maps, atlases and illustrations of Shakespeare’s time and beyond.” [Tony Campbell]
Mapping Australia: Country to Cartography runs from 4 October 2016 to 15 January 2017 at the AAMU Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art in Utrecht, Netherlands. The exhibition “will explore the different representations of Australia. Alongside the VOC’s historical maps of Australia’s coast, drawn by Dutch cartographers in the 17th and 18th centuries, are striking depictions of the country in contemporary art works of Aboriginal artists that are derived from thousands of years of traditions.” [WMS]
Digitization also presents scholars with a new way of looking at maps, since, according to Fowler, “you can get a lot more detail than you could even looking through a magnifying glass.” As Matthew Edney, Osher professor in the history of cartography, pointed out, you can also dwell on an image longer than you could while studying a physical item under controlled conditions. “Rare book rooms kick you out,” he told me, but you can take your time with digital copies.
In some cases, that’s allowed Edney to discover new features of maps that he thought he already knew well. He points in particular to an 18th-century map of New England that was once owned by Hugh Percy, a British army officer who was a key player during the battles of Lexington and Concord. “Staring at it on screen, you realize there are these faint pencil lines, possibly indicating tentative knowledge,” Edney said. As he explains in a recent paper on the topic, such observations helped him better understand how Percy likely used the map—offering a picture of what the map meant at the time and not just what it shows.
The Golden Age of American Pictorial Maps is an exhibition running until 3 September 2016 at the University of Southern Maine’s Osher Map Library. (If you can’t go there physically, there’s plenty online at the link, too.) “Curated by Dr. Stephen J. Hornsby, co-editor of the Historical Atlas of Maine [previously] and author of a forthcoming book on American pictorial maps, this exhibit looks at the golden age of pictorial or illustrated maps from the 1920s to the 1960s. Reflecting the exuberance of American popular culture and the creativity of commercial art, the maps are stimulating to the imagination and dazzling to the eye.” [WMS]