Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Courtesy photo by Osher Maps. Katherine Dudley, A Map of Portland Maine and Some Places Thereabout. (boston, 1928) OML collections, Published by the Portland Baby Health and Child Welfare Association, the bold colors of this map help depict Portland as a place of clean water, healthy parks and fresh air. Vignettes around the edges summarize the city's (equally sanitized) history.
PORTLAND — Call it a coming out party.
That's how Dr. Harold Osher thinks of the festivities for the reopening of Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education at the University of Southern Maine.
Events this weekend celebrate the library and center's expansion in a high-profile building at the intersection of Bedford Street and Forest Avenue.
Its presence is now proclaimed by a three-story structure sporting a giant projection of a world map created by futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller. Inside, the library and center occupy 19,000 square feet -- more than quadruple the size of its original space.
The library and center were first established at the location 15 years ago, but passers-by may have overlooked them if they didn't have to look in the right direction as they came through the entrance of the Glickman Family Library, Osher said.
''This really calls attention to the fact that we're here. Up until this new expansion, this new building, we were sort of the best-kept secret in town,'' Osher said. ''We're no longer a secret.''
Osher, a retired Portland cardiologist, and his wife, Peggy, donated one of the founding collections. The other was donated by Eleanor Houston Smith on behalf of herself and her late husband, Lawrence M.C. Smith, who had summered in Freeport. The collection has since grown to more than 300,000 maps.
The $12.3 million renovation is part of the larger University Commons project that is redeveloping the Bedford Street corridor. Private fundraising accounted for about $7 million of the map library expansion, state higher education funds provided about $5 million and a National Endowment for the Humanities grant contributed about $450,000.
The larger University Commons project also includes renovations to the Glickman Family Library and the new Wishcamper Center that houses the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Muskie School of Public Service.
Today, ''New Directions in the Study of American Cartographies'' will be held at the map library and center. The one-day conferences is geared toward ''hard-core cartophiles'' but isn't limited to scholars, said Yolanda Theunissen, the library's curator and the center's director.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house will be held Sunday. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. and will be followed by tours until 5 p.m.
Sunday will also be the opening of the exhibit ''American Treasures,'' which features a 1672 wall map of the Americas by Dutch cartographer Frederick de Wit.
The new space brings the collection together under one roof. Storage had previously involved three different off-site locations, which made it difficult to retrieve items for study. The new secure, climate-controlled area includes glass storage cases for globes and 80,000 pounds of steel shelving.
A new public space -- the Cohen Education Center -- will help the library and center fulfill its mission of public outreach. That space was inaugurated Thursday by fourth-graders from Nathan Clifford School who had a lesson with map facsimiles, a scavenger hunt in the gallery and a look at many of the globes from the Smith collection.
The galleries can display between 40 and 60 objects. Past exhibits are posted online and the process of digitizing the entire collection is under way.
The library and center are unusual in that their outreach mission extends to K-12 students and the general public as well as the academic community.
Parents of 10-year-old students studying explorers can request items for viewing just as out-of-state scholars do, Theunissen said. In both cases, a staff member would retrieve the item and set the party up in a seminar room.
''We're a state-funded institution, we're a public institution and the mission of the donors -- that was part of their vision,'' Theunissen said.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:
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Courtesy photo by Osher Maps. "A Gloriously Bold Portrait of Colony and Colonizer: John Smith's Map of New England" (1616). The map, which Smith based on his journey down the coast from Penobscot Bay to Cape Cod in the summer of 1614, features the only known likeness of the explorer.
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Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer: The Osher Map Library at the USM campus in Portland on October 15, 2009.