Osher Formally Donates Map Collection to USM

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 releasePortland 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]

Previously: Peggy Osher, 1929-2018.

Peggy Osher, 1929-2018

Peggy Osher died Tuesday at the age of 88, the Portland Press-Herald reports. She had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She and her husband, the cardiologist Dr. Harold Osher, who survives her, donated their sizeable map collection to the University of Southern Maine in 1989 and advocated the creation of a dedicated map library; the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education opened in October 1994Her obituary notes that in 1974 she convinced her husband to buy a map on a trip to London—a decision that escalated, as it often does. The Osher family was profiled in 2011 by Maine magazine. [WMS]

‘Art of the Spheres’ at the Osher Map Library

From L. W. Yaggy, Yaggy’s Geographical Study: Comprising Physical, Political, Geological and Astronomical Geography (1887). Map, 90.5 × 59 cm. Osher Map Library.

An exhibition of astronomical maps and illustrations opened this week at the Osher Map Library in Portland, Maine. Art of the Spheres: Picturing the Cosmos since 1600 is, at least in its online version, divided into two categories: Works of Scientific Investigation features chromolithographs of various astronomical phenomena, the moon, planets and deep sky objects from The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings (1881); Popular and Pedagogic Works includes celestial globes, charts and other graphical representations of the universe. Runs until 6 October.

Osher Map Art Exhibition Opens Today

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.

Exhibition Writeups

A couple of reviews of recent map exhibitions that I’ve mentioned before. First, the Arctic Journal looks at the Osher Map Library’s current exhibition, The Northwest Passage: Navigating Old Beliefs and New Realities (see previous entry). And the St. Louis Library’s fantasy maps exhibit (see previous entry), which wrapped up earlier this month, got a writeup from Book Riot. [Book Riot/Osher Maps]

The Northwest Passage: An Osher Map Library Exhibition

John Murray, Map Shewing the Discoveries Made by British Officers in the Arctic Region, 1828. Map, 41.5 × 52 cm. Osher Collection.
John Murray, Map Shewing the Discoveries Made by British Officers in the Arctic Region, 1828. Map, 41.5 × 52 cm. Osher Collection.

The Osher Map Library’s new exhibition, The Northwest Passage: Navigating Old Beliefs and New Realities, opened last week (see previous entry). The opening was also broadcast live on YouTube; if you missed it, the archived video can be watched there. And if you can’t get to Portland Maine, The exhibition’s companion website is now live, and features more than 50 images and maps on the theme of Arctic exploration. The Northwest Passage runs until 11 March 2017.

New and Upcoming Exhibitions

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]

The Northwest Passage: Navigating Old Beliefs and New Realities opens 29 September 2016 at the Osher Map Library in Portland, Maine. [WMS]

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]

The Osher Map Library’s Digital Project

Slate’s Jacob Brogan looks at the Osher Map Library and its decade-long project to digitize its collection of maps, atlases and globes, and ruminates on the advantages and disadvantages of digitization.

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.

Previously: A Look at the Osher Map Library.

A Look at the Osher Map Library

Edgar Allen Beem’s essay in the May/June issue of Humanities serves as a good introduction to the Osher Map Library, a major map collection housed at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. The Osher Map Library turns up a lot in my online cartographic perambulations; it’s good to know the history and origins of the place and the people working there (e.g. faculty scholar Matthew Edney, who also directs the History of Cartography project, and director Ian Fowler, who joined in 2014).

The Golden Age of American Pictorial Maps

The Capital of a New Trade Empire, 1929. Sheet map, 33×30 cm. Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine.
The Capital of a New Trade Empire, 1929. Sheet map, 33×30 cm. Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine.

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]

Related reading: The Art of Illustrated Maps by John Roman (previously).